Boston, July 14, 2017, — Tenants from Mass Pike Towers, a 200-unit low-income housing development in Boston Chinatown, staged a protest today with supporters to highlight an ongoing dispute over the tenant association’s right to purchase the tenants’ homes according to a 2000 agreement between Trinity Financial and the Mass Pike Towers Tenant Association.
Tenants wore bandanas and held plastic squirt guns to dramatize what they called Trinity’s “highway robbery.” Trinity received about $15 M in public financing to purchase the project for $6.1 M in 2000, but now demands that the tenants and their non-profit partner pay a sale price of $61 M. Jim Keefe of Trinity Financial cited an independent fair market appraisal for that amount, but the tenant association claims the appraisal does not follow the terms of the 2000 agreement. A lawsuit brought by the tenant/non-profit partnership is pending.
Tenant association leader Bill Oranczak explained that the association’s goals are “to preserve affordability in perpetuity and to control any future development on the land, which we believe is important for Chinatown’s future.” He noted that Trinity Financial sought to build market-rate housing on the Mass Pike Towers property a few years after their purchase, but dropped the proposal after months of community opposition. The tenant association proposed to convey the land to community ownership by the Chinatown Community Land Trust, while the buildings would be owned by the tenant/non-profit partnership.
The time-limited purchase option passed from the tenant association to the City of Boston last year, which opted to give the rights back to the tenant/non-profit partnership. According to the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development, the City of Boston exercised its option to puchase and assigned the option back to the tenant/non-profit partnership through an open Request for Proposal process, affirming its support for tenant ownership and community involvement in real estate.
Tenants took their case to the street today, passing out informational flyers to protest Trinity’s “highway robbery” in front of the developer’s offices. They noted that Trinity Financial is one of five developers currently bidding to redevelop the Mary Ellen McCormack public housing project in South Boston, but tenants say that its broken promises and excessive greed make Trinity a poor choice for continued public investment.