CAMBRIDGE — The Millennials Demanding Change (MDC) didn’t rest for long. After speaking in support of Queen Anne’s County Superintendent of Public Schools Dr. Andrea Kane at a rally they organized on Sunday, the group was back in action on Tuesday. In coordination with City Commissioner LaShon Foster (Ward 3), the Millennials charged Bradford House owners Preservation Management, Inc. with failing to provide a safe and well maintained environment for the elderly residents of the Section 8 housing. The site is located at 700 Race St. in Cambridge.
“Y’all do not have to endure this,” MDC leader Mya Woods said to residents gathered outside for the protest. Many of them were disabled and riding electric scooters.
Preservation Management, Inc. (PMI) is based in South Portland, Maine, and operates low-income housing across the nation. An email from the Banner to the company’s main offices was returned as undeliverable. A statement on PMI’s website says, “Preservation Management, Inc. has been providing comprehensive residential property management services since 1990. We specialize in managing properties that utilize government subsidies and/or low-income housing tax credits to provide affordable housing for low-income residents, including households with elderly and disabled members. The company also provides resident services programs, tailored to the needs and interests of residents, at many of the properties it manages.
“Our goals are centered on: (1) leasing our units to qualified residents; (2) assuring the timely receipt of the revenues for which we are responsible; (3) providing high quality maintenance for our residential units; and (4) complying with all legal, regulatory and program requirements. “We take great pride in the level of customer service we provide to our business partners and residents, and in providing a work environment that is characterized by collaboration and teamwork.”
Kathy Sorrell was the first resident to speak at the demonstration. “The place is dirty,” she said. “You walk in this building, it stinks.” Ms. Sorrell said with the community room closed, there is no place for residents to entertain visiting family and friends. “I think it’s sad,” she said.
“I don’t feel safe in my apartment,” Theodosia Hines said. “There are all kinds of drugs in here.” A chant of, “The Bradford House Matters” broke out as demonstrators help up signs asking for help from the city. “How are we protecting our senior citizens?” Ms. Woods asked. The long-term issues are now compounded with fears of coronavirus infection. Commissioner Foster said recent tests at the site revealed 10 positive cases. “They’re not doing any cleaning,” she said.
PMI management representative Michelle Folino spoke to the residents, saying, “I was honestly a little surprised that it’s come to this. In the past year, I don’t think I have heard from any of you.” Ms. Folino said work is being done in the Bradford House, with the elevators “in the process of renovation.” She said that project has cost $500,000.
Commissioner Foster said she had been involved in trying to improve conditions at the building for years. “We have an on-going list from the residents,” she said to Ms. Folino. “And you will get a list.”
The city’s Department of Public Works Division Manager Susan Webb circulated among the residents, distributing complaint forms. “The city is not ignoring these problems,” Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley said. “When you call us, we come.” She said for more than 20 years, as management fixed something in the building, it would break again. The solution, she said, is cooperation. “We have to work together,” Mayor Jackson-Stanley said.
Commissioner Foster has an idea, as well. “Let’s find a lawyer,” she said, who will collect rent from the residents, and withhold it from PMI. “It has to go into escrow,” she said. As long as rent is being paid, though not turned over to management, Commissioner Foster said residents cannot be evicted. Millennials Demanding Change are seeking a lawyer who will do pro bono work on the residents’ behalf. Attorneys interested in the job are asked to contact Commissioner Foster.