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Tenants and landlord in Mattapan reach a long-term contract on rents

This summer, when Lester White heard the Mattapan apartment building he has called home for 20 years was going up for sale, he figured, well, that was that.

“I thought, ‘I”ve got to get ready to move. The neighborhood’s changing over,’” he said. “I was ready to go to Home Depot and pick up some boxes.”

But instead, White went to a meeting with some of his fellow tenants at the Morton Village Apartments, an aging 207-unit complex off Gallivan Boulevard. Then he went to another, and another. Last week, the tenants group and the building’s new owners announced a deal that will keep the current residents of Morton Village in place, with modest rent hikes, for at least five years, with a little help from City Hall.

It’s the sort of deal supporters say can help stabilize Boston’s tumultuous housing market, especially for working-class renters at risk of being pushed from their neighborhoods as deep-pocketed investors move in. Not unlike a union contract, the private agreement reached between tenants and the landlord lays out modest rent increases so everyone knows what the next few years will look like, and can plan accordingly.

With housing advocates fearing a wave of evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and landlords anxious about a growing effort to reinstate formal rent control in Boston, this kind of voluntary agreement can be a model that makes sense for all involved, said Maggie Gribben, an attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services who helped the tenants group negotiate.

“This is something that’s possible for other landlords to do,” she said. “And it creates a mutual respect from the very beginning.”… Read more in the Boston Globe.