Everett St. Tenants Win Reprieve

Housing Authority Postpones Purchase

Tenants of 11 Everett St., who have for the past month protested the Cambridge Housing Authority's bid to purchase their rent-controlled apartments, are breathing a little easier today.

The housing authority has agreed, after meeting with members of the city council, to seek "alternative sites" for low-income and elderly housing in the Agassiz neighborhood near the Law School, and to develop "alternate treatment" for the 25 apartments at 11 Everett St., council members told tenant representatives last night.

Councilors Saundra Graham and David Sullivan said the compromise does not mean the housing authority will not take over the Everett St. building in the future. But the authority has promised, Sullivan and Graham said, not to cause an immediate wholesale eviction of the 39 tenants.

"I'm not saying you're safe, because your landlord is still anxious to sell," Graham told the tenants, adding, "At least it will not be the fault of the housing authority if there are evictions at 11 Everett St."

The housing authority's decision to postpone at least temporarily its plans to create the first state-subsidized housing project in the Agassiz neighborhood comes after weeks of meetings between several council members and the housing board, which is autonomous from the council.

"We have struggled with this issue." Graham said, "because we did not want to be saying to developers, 'You cannot remove units from the rental market,' and then say it's okay for the authority to do the same."

The city's rent-control ordinances prohibit developers from removing apartments from the Cambridge housing market, and some councillors have asserted that the regulations should also apply to the state-funded housing authority.

While supporting the council's efforts on their behalf, tenant representatives last night complained that the housing authority's concessions are not sufficiently specific to protect their interests. Tenant association president Kenneth Reeves said that unless the language of the agreement is strengthened, the residents will be left in "continuing limbo."

The council went on record against any housing authority mandated evictions at 11 Everett St., and Sullivan said he would ask housing authority director Daniel Winchell to strengthen the authority's pledge to the tenants.