In August 2017 MAHT received a call from a tenant at Eperanza Trust, a 3 building 40-unit property in Roxbury owned by Lorenzo-Pitts, Jr. looking for information about how to legally withhold rent do to less than satisfactory repair work. This turned out to be the tip of an iceberg!
MAHT organized an emergency tenant meeting and quickly discovered that the owner was attempting to illegally terminate the Section 8 contract threatening tenants with displacement. Another 40 families at Fort Hill Gardens, also owned by Pitts, were similarly at risk. Both buildings are located in the rapidly gentrifying Fort Hill neighborhood of Roxbury.
Through regular meetings, MAHT and the tenants discovered that Pitts was attempting to illegally terminate the section 8 contract at both properties by demanding some tenants pay full market rent and saying the buildings were “no longer under HUD.” MAHT helped the newly formed Esperanza/Fort Hill Gardens Tenants Association conduct a repair survey and write HUD to save their homes.
Through working with legal services and inviting a HUD representative to meetings, tenants got HUD to require the owners to honor the existing section 8 contract and select a new, qualified management agent. Pitts selected Cruz Management in December to conduct recertifications, but not repairs. When tenants learned of this, MAHT notified HUD, which forced Pitts to allow Cruz to manage, as well.
As soon as Cruz came on board they got to work on recertifying all 80 units, which HUD required before it would release repair funds . As of May 2018, HUD finally released Section 8 funds to allow for much needed repairs . During a meeting, Cruz credited the tenants for the successful and to a long battle with the owners to win new management and restore funds.
But the fight is not over: both Section 8 contracts end in 2020, and signs point to Pitts attempting again to convert both properties to high mar- ket rents. MAHT will continue to work with the tenants to save their homes!