CAAS’ Community Organizing & Advocacy program takes a systematic approach to advancing CAAS’ mission by engaging low-income residents in collectively pushing for social change.
- Creating and cultivating on-going relationships with members of the community and encouraging their participation in community action;
- Facilitating community engagement in activities that support and promote their own wellbeing and that of their community, such as assisting with the organization of tenants’ unions and engaging with public processes related to issues of municipal concern; and
- Facilitating resident engagement in defending and furthering their rights as a community through collective decision-making and action.
Mystic Tenants Association
CAAS' organizing team has been working with residents at the Mystic Housing Project in Winter Hill to revive the Mystic Tenant Association (MTA). Elections for the MTA Board members were held in February 2017, and at the beginning of April this new group of resident leaders had their first all-resident meeting. It was a rousing success with over forty tenants in attendance, and people actively participating in both English and Spanish. The MTA Board is now looking to continue building their base and involving more and more Mystic residents from all language backgrounds.
Pearl Street Park Resident Association
Pearl Street Park (PSP) is a privately owned, HUD-subsidized building for the elderly and disabled. When private owners sign a contract with HUD making their building affordable it is usually time-limited; at the expiration of the stated time period the building reverts to market rent. PSP's affordability was due to expire in September of 2018. The organizing department at CAAS has been paying attention to buildings with expiring use because we want to preserve all of Somerville's affordable housing. We do this by helping tenants organize a tenant association; empowering them to take actions that will improve and stabilize their housing situation; and working with management and owners to keep their housing affordable. Our efforts at Pearl Street Park have been successful: PSP's affordability is being extended.
Clarendon Residents United
CAAS’ organizing team has been working on a tenant rights action project at the Clarendon Hills housing project in West Somerville. The Somerville Housing Authority has partnered with private developers to redevelop the site, which would temporarily displace the 216 families that currently reside there. The redevelopment will involve increasing the density of the site by adding 300 market-rate and workforce-rate housing units and rebuilding the current affordable housing units . CAAS has worked with residents to organize a tenant association that will represent tenants’ voices during the process. Given the vulnerable population currently living in the housing project, ensuring that tenant voices are heard during negotiations is a key goal of CAAS’ community organizing team. Through this process, the tenants hope to solidify their rights and get answers to important concerns about residents’ rights to stay in Somerville during the redevelopment process, whether or not children will be able to stay in the Somerville School District if their families move, and whether all current tenants will be guaranteed the right to move back when the development is completed. Clarendon Residents have been negotiating and all that remains is making sure residents can stay in Somerville, and that the land stays public into the future.