Photo by Gabriela Maria Cartagena
Amid unprecedented housing security and economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of families in our community have struggled to remain housed over the last two years. With the ongoing gentrification of neighborhoods of color and housing costs that only seem to go up, many feel helpless, especially as supplemental assistance programs and eviction moratoriums will soon come to an end. Every day, we speak to more and more members with eviction notices in hand, terrified that they will lose their homes and assume that they must leave. That’s not the case, according to Leila Fajardo-Giles, La Colaborativa’s new Housing Attorney, who makes sure tenants know their rights and that they don’t have to go anywhere right away.
This Monday, La Colaborativa joined the Chelsea Broadway Tenants Association, City Life/Vida Urbana and Greater Boston Legal Services in support of Michelle Diaz, a member of our community who spoke up about multiple code violations and is now facing a retaliatory rent increase and eviction. Leila is not surprised, noting that many landlords prey on tenants who don’t understand that there are other avenues other than agreeing to high rent increases or finding a new places to live. In fact, thanks to the Housing Team’s efforts, many community members have been able to negotiate with landlords to avoid litigation.
“I truly believe that having an in-house housing attorney is going to make a difference,” says Leila. “La Colaborativa already has a reputation of meeting the community where they need it most. Having a lawyer that can directly advise members of our community is vital – when people have limited or no access to legal advice or don’t know their rights, they often fall victim to predatory landlords and feel they have no other choice than to live in dangerous housing.”
We are grateful to add Leila Fajardo-Giles, Esq., to our organization as a Housing Attorney where she can make this impactful difference. During the past year she has been practicing as a Staff Attorney in the Housing Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services, focusing on eviction defense for tenants affected during the pandemic and looks to continue this work at La Colaborativa. Her focus in advising our community is to ensure people understand their rights, regardless of their immigration status, and access the systems that are in place to help them.
There is now a new housing crisis on the horizon. With state pandemic-era assistance coming to an end in April, the future may seem bleak for many who relied on these supports to stay afloat. No matter what the future holds, La Colaborativa will be here to support our community every step of the way.