‘I Don’t Want to Go’: Tenants Could Be Priced Out of Subsidized Building

Scott Cahaly's art revolves around peace and serenity, but he says that calm is now turning into an abstract world of stress and the unknown.

He and other tenants are facing the prospect of being kicked out of their units at Millbrook Lofts in Somerville, Massachusetts. The complex is less than two years old, but Berkeley Investments, which owns the property, plans to turn all 100 units into luxury condominiums.

"This is my home. And I don't want to go," Cahaly said.

"The opportunity for Berkeley as an investor made more sense to pursue," said Vice President Dan Mcgrath, who notified tenants three months ago.

"It only seems to have gotten contentious in the last couple of days," McGrath said. "We thought we were working in good faith."

In compensation, Berkeley is offering each tenant $1,000, no questions asked, along with discounted moving expenses and even more money if people move out sooner than the one-year grace period.

"But that's really nothing when it comes to putting down first, last, brokers fees and a security deposit," said Greg Santos of the Millbrook Tenants Association.

Members of the association are organizing strategy meetings and calling on city officials to beef up protections for renters.

"I certainly think it was misleading not to mention to tenants something like this could happen," said Santos.

Currently in Somerville, only low-income residents are eligible for one month's rent compensation during condo conversions.

"The Boston ordinance provides $6,000 of compensation for people who have to relocate, $10,000 for low-income people," said Somerville Ward 2 Alderman J.T. Scott.

State Rep. Mike Connolly says he's also trying to help, because this is symptomatic of what's happening across the Greater Boston Area.

"How might we have to adjust condo conversion laws on the state level or local level?" asked Connolly.

Cahaly says this place was marketed as an artists' community, but he also understands this is a business.

The last line of defense for tenants is the city's Condominium Review Board. The panel could make a decision to green-light the project or reject it at a meeting scheduled for Monday, Feb. 26.

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