Magazine

Real Estate

When tenants get into trouble, a new city office can help

Boston’s Office of Housing Stability makes a difference, one tenant at a time.

Boston, MA - 11/03/15 - Five things feature about Lydia Edwards, a fellow at Greater Boston Legal Services. Edwards has worked to protect the rights of domestic workers and has played a key role in passing legislation last year aimed at ending abuse of domestic workers, often immigrants. - (Barry Chin/Globe Staff), Section: Business, Reporter: Beth Healy, Topic: 08fivethings, LOID: 8.2.217950676.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff/File

Lydia Edwards has taken leave from her job to run for City Council this fall.

Every Thursday evening, in the lobby of a city-owned building on Court Street, a team of counselors sits ready to help tackle one of Boston’s thorniest challenges. One tenant at a time.

It’s a weekly clinic for at-risk renters, part of a push by the Walsh administration to combat displacement. The clinics are run by the city’s new Office of Housing Stability, which Mayor Martin J. Walsh created last year to try to help the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Bostonians pushed out of their homes each year by disasters, rent increases, and their landlords’ redevelopment plans.

Advertisement

To Lydia Edwards, a former legal aid attorney who launched the effort, the clinics highlight the many hazards renters can face in one of the nation’s priciest housing markets. Not just rent hikes but broader troubles — a fire, job loss, domestic abuse — can put tenants at risk of losing their homes. “People enter a housing crisis for all sorts of reasons,” she says. “Our office is doing our best to come up with systems to help them.”

While the clinics are the hands-on leading edge, the Office of Housing Stability has big-picture policy goals, too. Edwards — prior to taking a leave to run for City Council this fall — and her team lobby city and state lawmakers to strengthen tenant protection laws, including one that would, finally, allow the city to track eviction activity as it happens. At the same time, they’re talking with landlords, building relationships, and encouraging policies they hope will head off evictions.

All of it, she says, is built around encouraging conversation among tenants, landlords, and City Hall, three constituencies that often can feel as if they’re speaking completely different languages. “We have to come up with a way we can talk and have all of us feel like part of the solution,” Edwards says.

Tim Logan is a Globe staff writer. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.
Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.
We hope you've enjoyed your free articles.
Continue reading by subscribing to Globe.com for just 99¢.
 Already a member? Log in Home
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com