Betty Lewis’ home in Mattapan where she has lived for 40 years was $1,800 per month. But a recent rent increase of $300 threatened her housing security.
Determined to stand her ground, Lewis reached out to City Life/Vida Urbana (CLVU), a grassroots community organization that has been at the forefront of the battle against displacement. With their help, Lewis has been able to stay in her apartment.
“I got in touch with City Life to help me in my fight. Because, you know, you can't do it alone. You got to have somebody behind you, working with you. And that's how they do. They give you the strength. They give you the courage to fight,” said Lewis, CLVU Fairlawn tenant association leader on Boston Public Radio.
“It is about using the rights we do have as effectively as we can to create an opening for negotiation," said Andres Del Castillo, CVLU development director. "Studies have shown everywhere that tenants without an attorney are, you know, it's like 80 to 90% guaranteed they're going to lose their case. And so the ability to know your rights and know how to exercise your rights changes drastically what the outcome is.”
The roots of City Life/Vida Urbana go back to 1973 when it began as the Jamaica Plain Tenant Action Group (JPTAG). They fought displacement through direct actions, such as eviction blockades.
This week CLVU is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
"The rich history and the lineage is something I do really want to sort of uplift," Denise Matthews Turner, CLVU co-executive director said. "The activists that were some of the organizers, they came from the struggle for civil rights, the women's movement, the anti-apartheid movement. And so we have this lineage that we have moved from for 50 years."
City Life/Vida Urbana is hosting an anniversary party on Friday, Oct. 13 at the House of Blues where they will also be releasing an original bilingual rent control song.