The bellowing music of a brass band, complete with a tuba decorated with a “Stop Medford Evictions” sign, made it impossible to ignore the demands of a local tenants group who rallied at the entrance to their landlord’s gated community early Saturday afternoon.
“Everywhere we go, people wanna know, who we are, so we tell them: we are the movement! The mighty, mighty movement,” protesters sang, borrowing Tony the Tiger’s famous tune as horns and trumpets played along. “Fighting for justice! Housing justice!”
Several dozen people crowded the sidewalk across from Jamaica Pond and spilled into the street, marching and cheering in support of Kristin and Amanda Welliver, leaders of the Bradlee Road Tenant Association in Medford.
The couple have lived in their home on Bradlee Road for 14 years, which was bought by Jason and Melanie Savage of Savage Properties two years ago during the pandemic.
Amanda Welliver said Saturday that she never imagined her landlord would try to kick her family out of their home after more than a decade, with barely a month to find a new place to live in a very challenging housing market.
“We had nothing prepared,” she said. “We can’t really afford to move anywhere else because rent is so crazy out of control... so we’ve been fighting mainly out of necessity.”
For the past year, the Wellivers said, they have been asking the Savages to negotiate a way to stay in their home. The pair are the last remaining tenants-at-will in their building. Unlike renters who have signed a lease agreement, at-will tenants agree to pay a certain amount in rent for an indefinite period of time. Either the landlord or the tenant can decide to end the agreement by notifying the other party 30 days before the next rent payment is due, according to the state attorney general’s office.
Welliver said she was frustrated that the Savages seem determined to turn the building into luxury apartments when the Medford community is in need of affordable housing.
“As they hide inside their mansion, they’re trying to tell us that staying in our home is somehow expensive for them,” she said, gesturing to the metal gate that marks the entrance to the Sargent Crossway development. “They could have fixed [the building] up without renovating it to the highest dollar... and now they want to increase our rent by 80 to 100 percent.”
However, the Savages said in a statement that they sent notifications to tenants saying the units could not be occupied during upcoming renovations because their company purchased the building with the intention of making “desperately needed” improvements to the kitchens and bathrooms.
After conferring with tenants and Medford City officials, they said in the statement, each tenant was given an extension to allow them time to find new housing.
“Some were in the process of purchasing a home and needed additional time to complete their purchase. Other tenants requested assistance finding an apartment,” the statement said. “In each of these cases, our team cooperated fully and provided professional services in addition to other forms of assistance, including significant financial assistance up to $10,000.”
The Savages said they have not evicted any tenants. The Wellivers did receive a notice to “quit” the premises in June 2022, however, according to court records.
“No Bradlee Road tenant has been evicted from the property and all but one of the tenancies has been resolved amicably. This particular tenant has already been given two years to find a new apartment,” the statement said. “We remain committed to working with all tenants of Bradlee Road to address their needs while making improvements to the building.”
The protest, organized by the housing justice group City Life / Vida Urbana, drew activists and supporters from across Greater Boston, many of whom shared their own stories of battling eviction in between chants of “Jason and Melanie, you can’t hide! We can see your greedy side!”
Katie McCann, lead organizer for the protest, said in a phone interview that City Life / Vida Urbana encourages most tenants to fight for a five-year contract with rent increases at no more than 3 percent every year. But it can be difficult to get representatives from large corporations to even agree to a conversation, she said.
“Our landlords refuse to come to the [bargaining] table, they don’t acknowledge us at all,” said Betty Lewis, a Mattapan resident for nearly 50 years who said her family has been fighting to stay in their home since 2019.
“Instead of treating us like a commodity, treat us like human beings and talk to us,” Lewis implored. “So that’s why I’m standing here behind [these Medford tenants], just like they stood behind me.”
The Wellivers are preparing to face off in housing court against their landlords next month, but McCann stressed that the family, and organizers, are hopeful that the Savages will agree to negotiations before that date.
“I’m just hoping we can stay in our home and draw bigger attention to this problem... that is really a fight for the whole community,” said Amanda Welliver. After all, she added, “if everyone leaves, who’s gonna be left to fight?”
Ivy Scott can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @itsivyscott.