City Will Ask State Help To Protect Older Tenants

Cambridge officials will launch Wednesday a two-pronged attack to protect elderly residents from evictions because of condominium conversion.

State Rep. Saundra Graham will file a home-rule petition with the legislature prohibiting eviction of residents more than 60 years old. The bill is nearly identical to one that died in the waning minutes of the last legislative session.

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Also, State Sen. Michael LoPresti will introduce a bill in the State Senate that would stop the eviction of elderly renters in all cities with populations of more than 80,000 (Nearly 100,000 people live in Cambridge.)

Graham's bill, approved last night by the City Council on a 6-1 vote was passed in the last State House session but too late to allow for a senate vote.

Graham redrafted the bill, redefining "elderly" to include people 60 years of age or over, instead of 62.

The House Local Affairs Committee also amended the bill introduced last session to include only those people too poor to purchase the condominium unit.

To prevent the inclusion of a similar "means test" with her re-draft, Graham added a provision forbidding any amendment of her revision.

"It's a home-rule petition. It's what we want, and the state shouldn't be able to amend it," Graham said yesterday.

"We're going to have plenty of time with this one. If it looks like we won't be able to get it through, then maybe we'll start to talk about the means test," Graham added.

LoPresti's bill, which would affect all the state's major cities--including Cambridge and Boston--will go to the Senate Urban Affairs Committee, Graham said.

Although the wording of LoPresti's bill is not final, local coordinator Pat Mitsumaya said the bill would mirror Graham's house resolution in many details.

Graham refused to speculate on either bill's chances. "We're going to fight like hell for them. At the very least, we will force the issue out and make people talk about it," she added.

The City Council also decided last night to postpone discussion of an amendment to the city ordinance regulating conversion of any apartment into a condominium.

The amendment, designed to clarify the removal ordinance by stipulating that the law applies to all buildings not demolished or converted at the time of its passage, is an attempt to protect tenants on Blanche St. and in the Greycroft homes on Mass Ave.