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Residents Protest Evictions

By Michael E. Thakur, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

About 100 Cantabrigians marched from Mass. Ave and River Street to City Hall Saturday afternoon to protest recent rent increases and evictions in the wake of the 1994 abolishment of rent control.

The rally, sponsored by the Campaign to Save 2000 Homes and the Cambridge Eviction Free Zone (EFZ), was geared to show support for low-income residents.

The campaign and the EFZ advocate measures including passing a local condominium conversion law and home rule.

The conversion law would prevent landlords from making previously affordable housing units into condominiums. Home rule would grant Cambridge the ability to keep certain housing--that had been subsidized by the government--under rent control.

Rally participants singled out Stu-Lin Realty--the largest owner of Cambridge property after Harvard University--for raising rent substantially and then evicting tenants who could not pay.

At the same time, they praised Harvard for selling 100 units of housing to the city that will be used as affordable housing.

The crisp December air was livened Saturday by the protesters' shouts of "No eviction for profit!" and the sound of drums and trumpets played by other rally participants.

Real Estate Scrooge, who represented the landlords who were raising rents and evicting tenants, was played by Ian C. MacKinnon, a former candidate for City Council. Clad in a tuxedo, dark sunglasses, a black top hat and a black cloth which covered his face, he stood atop a covered shopping cart.

"What happened to the sanctity of private property?" Scrooge asked, promptly eliciting boos from the crowd.

Patricia A. Casola, chair of the Fresh Pond Tenants Association, said that the current one-year housing voucher system in Massachusetts--which allows tenants evicted under rent control to stay in government subsidized housing--a "temporary band-aid on a problem that requires surgery."

Marie Brizzard, who spoke through a translator, said, "One of the reasons we leave our countries to come here is [because] we want better lives for our family, children and ourselves. While we look for a better life, we ask for respect."

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