Rent increase leads to eviction notices for two grandmothers in Boston

Two grandmothers are feeling the effects of a rent increase at their Mattapan apartment, with a battle to stay in their building taking a toll.

Ruby James Saucer, a retired grandmother, said if her landlord had it his way, she believes the street is where she'd be landing.

"It's not fair," Saucer said. "What are you going to do? Just throw me on the street?"

The standoff is having a medical impact on the 65-year-old, who was just elected to the Mattapan Neighbohood Council.

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"Your blood pressure, I have diabetes and it goes out of control," Saucer said. "You have no place to go. Where are you going?"

Saucer said her comforts of home came under siege just a few months after her husband's death, with a notice that rent was going up $700 from $1,500 to $2,200.

"I said, 'What? $700?'" Saucer said. "Who has $700 to give a landlord? You have a fixed income once a month. Where is that $700 going to go from? It's impossible."

Then came an eviction notice, and Michele Ewing, her downstairs neighbor who has lived in the building for 24 years, got the same.

"I feel like it's a mob takeover," Ewing said. "Like they're in full control and you're just nobody."

The 64-year-old, who's also a grandmother, can't work because of a disability. Even with a Section 8 subsidy, she says a $700 monthly spike is far-fetched.

"I feel like they should give us respect," Ewing said. "They shouldn't just come to neighborhoods and do what they want."

State Senator Sal DiDomenico has filed a bill that would provide legal counsel to tenants in eviction proceedings as more landlords try to flip properties for profit.

"“We know they are at a severe disadvantage," DiDomenico said. "It really is a David versus Goliath."

There are an estimated 43 evictions a day in the state and Boston area rents are reaching a new high, averaging more than $2,200 dollars a month.

DiDomenico said a growing number of evicted tenants are being blindsided, with dwindling options on where to go and limited tools to help them fight back.

"When people come at the tenants with $600, $700 increases, it is an eviction," DiDomenico said. "People might want to put their head in the sand and think this is a problem they don't want to address until it happens to someone they love."

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The community organization "City Life" is helping the two grandmothers with legal counsel as they prepare to battle their eviction notices in court.

As for the bill filed by DiDomenico, he estimates it would cost taxpayers just under $10 million annually, but said it would save more than double that in the costs and consequences connected to evictions.

Similar bills offering counsel to low-income tenants have recently been established in New York and San Francisco.