City Life/Vida Urbana (Urban Revival, Inc.)

Stand Up, Fight Back!

Jamaica Plain, MA   |  www.clvu.org

Mission

City Life/Vida Urbana is a grassroots community organization committed to fighting for racial, social, and economic justice and gender equality by building working-class power. We promote individual empowerment, develop community leaders and build collective power to effect systemic change and transform society. Throughout its 45-plus-year history, City Life has largely expressed its mission through organizing Boston residents in order to prevent displacement and promote tenants' rights and affordable housing throughout Boston and beyond.

Ruling year info

1979

Co-Executive Director

Ms. Denise Matthews-Turner

Co-Executive Director

Mr. Mike Leyba

Main address

PO Box 300107

Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

04-2660311

NTEE code info

Civil Rights, Social Action, and Advocacy N.E.C. (R99)

Housing Owners, Renters Organizations (L50)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (W01)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

City Life serves low- and moderate-income greater Boston tenant households at risk of being displaced from their homes due to unaffordable rent increases or building “clearouts.” Programming is concentrated in the Boston neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, East Boston, Jamaica Plain, and Hyde Park. Half of the residents in these neighborhoods are housing cost-burdened, paying over 30% of their income on housing costs. As a result of this precarious reality, any unanticipated expense, including a large rental increase, can threaten a tenant household’s housing stability. In the neighborhoods this project serves, tenants typically face rental increases between 25%-50%.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Boston Housing Organizing Project

The Boston housing organizing project's goals are: 1) To expand a broad-based constituency of working class residents who are facing displacement to stabilize their own housing and work together to stop housing and neighborhood displacement across Boston and beyond, 2) For tenants threatened with loss of their homes to gain tools and knowledge that will enable them to challenge predatory corporations that profit from displacement.

Repeated forced moves are a regular part of life for CL/VU's constituents—mainly low-income people of color. A growing body of health and social science research ties housing displacement to profoundly negative health and economic outcomes such as:
--Elevated depression risk in children and adults
--Addiction and early sexual activity/pregnancy in children and teens
--Elevation in material hardship and increased risk of job loss in the year following a forced move.

CL/VU conducts geographically-based anti-displacement projects in Jamaica Plain and in East Boston, and a cross-site leadership development program. Every week, 5-15 new families from multiple Boston neighborhoods come to CLVU's weekly tenants' rights meeting because their rents have increased typically 25%-50%.

Over 90% of the households threatened with eviction who have actively participated in CL/VU’s group support, casework, rights training and advocacy last year have successfully extended their stay in their homes by months, often over a year. In doing so, they facilitated negotiations of affordable lease agreements, or stable housing transitions.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Economically disadvantaged people

Where we work

Awards

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

City Life's goals are:
1) To expand a broad-based constituency of working class residents who are facing displacement to stabilize their own housing and work together to stop housing and neighborhood displacement across Boston and beyond,
2) For tenants threatened with loss of their homes to gain tools and knowledge that will enable them to challenge predatory corporations that profit from displacement.

City Life/Vida Urbana’s 2020 Objectives:

• Reach 240 households per month with information about their housing rights/resources through canvass (Total: 2,880)
• Reach 5,600 Boston Section 8 households via targeted mailing
• Reach an additional 3,000 households via community flyering
• Reach 240 Boston Section 8 households through neighborhood meetings
• 580 unduplicated low- and moderate-income Boston area renters at risk of eviction for profit will receive legal advice and/or representation
• 120 participants per week at CLVU meetings receive training regarding tenants rights and the eviction process
• 60 participants will go through advanced training which they will use to support, guide, and encourage their neighbors who are facing eviction, and educate the community about the displacement crisis.
• A combined average of 20 per week meet individually with lawyers re: housing during tenant meetings held in Jamaica Plain and East Boston

In 2020, City Life/Vida Urbana aims to stop the displacement of 700+ low- and moderate-income households in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Hyde Park, Mattapan, Dorchester and East Boston and to advocate for long-term affordable housing in these communities. We do this through outreach, group support, casework, housing rights training, access to legal counsel, and by advocating for long term solutions like nonprofit purchase of occupied property for conversion into long term affordable housing.

Mutual Aid and Legal Advocacy
Through multipronged outreach (weekly door-to-door canvass, mass mailings, community flyering, and weekly Housing Court support), low-income Boston residents facing displacement find their way to one of two weekly bilingual (Spanish-English) housing meetings (Jamaica Plain, East Boston). At these lively, supportive group rights training meetings, new and returning participants and staff share housing experiences, advice and encouragement with one another. While tenants meet, legal services attorneys consult with participants 1-1 in an adjoining room.

This model is innovative at multiple levels. While staff offers intensive casework follow-up, tenants are asked to take charge of their own cases. They are encouraged to volunteer in support of others who are also facing displacement and to help plan and attend public forums and rallies to speak to the need for affordable housing and urge alternatives to eviction. As a result, tenants experience themselves as powerful self-advocates and agents of change, rather than as powerless victims. They are more likely to persist with their eviction defense and not give up. Another key innovation is the integration of community-based group support with legal advocacy, offering a cost-effective way for lawyers to serve a large pool of clients.

Community Stabilization
This project links anti-eviction activities with alternative community development strategies, in order to convert organized buildings into permanently affordable, community-controlled housing. We will coordinate individual and collective casework and legal defense with advocacy with community development partners and with the City in order to realize nonprofit purchases of buildings where our members are fighting to remain. At regular meetings with collaborators, we target prospective buildings and work together toward purchase. Some will be placed onto a new community land trust which CL/VU’s resident organizing and coalition leadership helped to create.

Starting in Fall 2018, with enhanced staff capacity made possible by a grant from Boston Children’s Hospital, the project has re-invigorated outreach and rights training to Section 8 tenants, via a series of bimonthly zip code-based mailings and informational meetings. This intervention responds to an escalating trend among Section 8 landlords to raise rents hundreds of dollars beyond the HUD payment standard, leaving tenants responsible for the paying the difference. These additional resources have also enabled us to place 5-10 staff and volunteers at Eastern (Boston) Housing Court weekly in order to reach out to and support residents facing evictions.

Due to City Life's long history of anti-displacement community organizing, we have institutional experience to ensure we meet objectives. For example, in 2017, the following specific efforts were undertaken:

• On average, 110 tenants and owners at risk of displacement attended one of two weekly rights training meetings held in Jamaica Plain and East Boston
• Each week, 18 participants consulted individually with attorneys.
• During the grant year, the project opened 524 new cases
• Provided casework support to a total of 660 households
• Worked with a total of 35 buildings to form Tenant Associations, representing 895 homes
• Knocked on 1,117 doors of households at high-risk for displacement to let them know about their legal rights and resources. Reached 8,000 more through flyer distribution.

Many households such as these made critical progress toward housing stabilization:

Approximately 20 Tenants from Advanced Property Management buildings in Mattapan and Hyde Park have been fighting no-fault evictions for over two years (as of December 2018), as they fight to win an affordable rental contract. While these tenants were still fighting for an affordable lease at the end of the grant year, they won a great victory in 2018. The owner signed an MOU, committing to cap Section 8 rents in all of his buildings (approximately 175 in total) at the maximum amount which HUD is willing to subsidize. Thanks to the groundwork laid in 2018, 10 of these households did, in fact, settle their cases in 2019, either winning affordable leases, or in three cases, using the negotiated settlement to buy their own homes.

In 2018, CL/VU embarked on new relationships with hospitals in order to stabilize the housing and protect the health of families. In 2018, funding from Children’s Hospital has enabled us to dramatically expand outreach and casework. Also in 2018, CL/VU was invited to join the Advisory Board of the Innovative Stable Housing Initiative (ISHI), a groundbreaking collaboration funded by three local hospitals. Within ISHI, CL/VU works with hospital systems to figure out how these systems can leverage their resources to address housing as a social determinant of health. In 2018, CL/VU helped hundreds of low-income residents to stabilize their housing, and contributed to systemic solutions to Boston’s affordable housing crisis.

(updated 1/3/2020)

Between September 2018 and September 2019, CL/VU has significantly expanded our organizing impact.
• 6,645 households in Boston have received information about their rights and
resources via door-to-door canvass, flyering, Section 8 mailings, and Housing Court
outreach.
• Approximately 450 households have received case assistance this year.
• From the base built through these activities, staff has organized 8 NEW building-based
Tenant Associations. Tenants meet regularly to plan their legal defense, as they use public
advocacy (rallies, outreach to media, public officials) to build broad support to convince
landlords to negotiate, not evict.
• In addition to fostering individual and collective housing stabilization, this outreach has
led to formation of a new Citywide Section 8 Committee which will advocate collectively
for Section 8 tenants’ rights.

This year, protracted tenant association struggles are ending in individual and neighborhood victories. For example, one Boston neighborhood (JP-Rox) has mobilized around two households who have been fighting corporate landlord City Realty Management (CRM) for over five years. Multiple neighborhood mobilizations through Winter-Spring 2019 persuaded local planning and development bodies to
delay voting on CRM’s projects until the company negotiated in good faith. As a result, CRM agreed to sell one building to a nonprofit developer, which will redevelop the site into 40 units of affordable housing. In addition, CRM has agreed to extend leases of the two tenant households by a year, to stop suing tenants who exercise their rights, and has agreed in principle to sign an anti-displacement MOU
with the entire neighborhood.

In total this year, nonprofit partners made bids to purchase 4 organized buildings.

In East Boston, along with partner, Greenroots, CL/VU has launched a grassroots campaign to block developer, HYM, from driving working class immigrant families out of East Boston and Revere. HYM has gotten initial public approval for its plan to develop 161 acres with 10,000 luxury apartments, green space, and retail, with less than 10% of these designated as “affordable’. In April, CL/VU, Greenroots, and
others held a campaign kickoff event in East Boston, with 75 residents, mainly Latinx immigrants, present to learn about HYM’s plans and draft public comments to the City, voicing their objections to HYM’s plan. We continue to support our members to be at the forefront of this fight.

Financials

City Life/Vida Urbana (Urban Revival, Inc.)
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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City Life/Vida Urbana (Urban Revival, Inc.)

Board of directors
as of 06/29/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Ms. Carolyn Lomax


Board co-chair

Ms. Heather Gordon

Mike Wolfson

Harvard School of Public Health

Laura Foner

Community volunteer

Maura Russell

Massachusetts Board of Education

Carolyn Lomax

Self-employed Cosmetologist

Heather Gordon

Community volunteer

Alma Chislom

Boston Neighborhood Community Land Trust

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 6/29/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American/African
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Decline to state

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Hispanic/Latino/Latina/Latinx
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 01/03/2020

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.