A kite festival, a mayoral candidates forum for issues relating to elders, and the City urges residents to access housing assistance
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The Somerville Fair Housing Commission compiled a Fair Housing questionnaire for mayoral and City Council candidates to respond to. The Somerville Wire will be publishing the completed questionnaire in a six part series. The first is included below.
The organization is calling upon Eversource to address the leaks and damaged trees
Somerville Arts Council event will showcase work at artists’ homes
There’s a multilateral effort to keep people housed in the city. What’s working? Who’s behind it? And what are they up against?
“But after dealing with long affordable housing waitlists and navigating endless red tape, I found that keeping our family together was no easy feat.”
Somerville Kite and Art Festival takes off
On August 7, the Somerville Arts Council held the Somerville Kite and Art Festival of 2021 at Dilboy Field. The City has not been able to hold many large gatherings, due to the pandemic, and the organizers strove to take advantage of recent lifting of related public health restrictions. Children had the opportunity to decorate and fly kites, as well as design face masks. There were arts and crafts, face painting, big bubble popping, and music from popular minority artists. Photos from Heather Balchunas are below.
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services/Visiting Nurses Association holds mayoral candidates forum
On August 5, Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services and the Visiting Nurses Association hosted a forum for mayoral candidates to discuss issues facing older adults. The four speakers were Councilor Katjana Ballantyne, Mary Cassesso, Councilor Will Mbah, and Billy Tauro. Topics that the candidates addressed included affordable housing for seniors, SomerVision (the City’s comprehensive plan for 2010-2030), transportation friendliness, how Somerville can be an intergenerational community, and how seniors can be engaged in the city.
Cassesso emphasized that affordable housing is a chief priority for her.
“Elders want to age in place,” said Cassesso. “Older adults feel strongly that they want to be in their community. I want to build incentives in so that folks like my mom, who lives in Somerville, can stay in her house and still have opportunities to make affordable changes. The condo conversion protections are also helpful, because we were losing a lot of affordable units because people were developing them, and those markets are gone forever.”
Ballantyne said that the relationships in the Somerville community make it what it is, and she would like to see the city become more inclusive and supportive.
“We have lots of neighbors who are seniors … ” said Ballantyne. “It all starts with us. We say we have these block parties, and that’s wonderful, but we include everybody. We have this chain, and even when it’s the winter time … we call people—who’s going to do which person’s sidewalk? That intergenerational approach that’s within our own families, where we’re helping, we just need to expand the boundaries.”
For Mbah, he said that plans like SomerVision need to put seniors front and center. He would like to address mobility concerns for the elderly and also help them access free internet.
“SomerVision is supposed to set the pace for the next 20 or 30 years, and there was no way it would pass us by without addressing seniors concerns,” said Mbah. “It is still stuck in committee, and we will be integrating all the issues that we are talking about.”
Tauro said that he would like to improve transportation conditions for seniors.
“Transportation should be free,” said Tauro. “It should be free for all of them. They should have adequate transportation. You shouldn’t be waiting at the bus stop for an hour. You shouldn’t be waiting out in the rain. You shouldn’t be waiting in the bus lane, or anything like that. You should have transportation when you need it.”
City urges residents to access housing assistance now
The City of Somerville is encouraging low and moderate income tenants and homeowners who may be facing challenges paying housing costs to seek supports, in order to prevent possible evictions later. The current City eviction moratorium was renewed through September 15; meanwhile, the federal eviction moratorium was extended through October 3. In spite of these steps, the City is still urging people to seek help now, not further down the line.
“We are relieved that the CDC extended the federal eviction moratorium, and Somerville’s local eviction moratorium also remains in place, but no one should be waiting to seek help making rent or mortgage payments. Falling behind month-by-month can make it difficult to catch up, and we don’t know how long federal protections will continue beyond the current extension,” said Fred Berman, deputy director of the Office of Housing Stability (OHS), in a press release. “There are various financial resources that we can help low- and moderate-income tenants and homeowners apply for, and it’s best to contact us at the City’s Office of Housing Stability sooner rather than later,” continued Berman. “We can talk renters and owners through the available options and either directly assist with applying for rental or mortgage assistance, or refer to partnering nonprofits that can help.”
There are supports that can help with overdue payments and provide time-limited assistance with upcoming payments. These can help prevent tenant evictions for non-payment of rent. They are also available to help landlords who may be grappling with paying their mortgage and other bills without customary rental income.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure that Somerville residents don’t lose their housing as a result of this pandemic,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, in the same press release. “We have substantial funding available for struggling renters and homeowners thanks to the American Rescue Plan. We also have an entire Office of Housing Stability and partnering non-profits prepared to assist residents who need rental or mortgage assistance. Landlords and tenants don’t need to be at odds over unpaid rent. We can help you solve this problem.”
Food themed mural will come to East Somerville
East Somerville Main Streets is still accepting donations for a mural project that will be going up in the neighborhood. The artwork will be outside Deano’s Pizza, at 15 Garfield Avenue. Designed by artist Michael Talbot, the mural will be food themed and is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.
“My aim and approach with this mural was not just to highlight the business and what they do, but provide for the viewers an introspective dialogue to the statement, ‘You are what you love,’” said Michael Talbot, on East Somerville Main Streets’ website. “One of the main things that stood out to me about Deano’s Pasta is how dedicated they are to their process and promise of handmade and hand-packaged pasta. Going off of this, I figured I wanted to focus on a pair of hands at work. Deano’s Pasta, being a generational family business that steadily passes on the traditions, practices, and knowledge to whoever is next in line, I felt like the word ‘Artisanal’ was an appropriate description and statement of authenticity, and as such I went with it as the title for this design.”
The project has also been supported by a grant from the Somerville Arts Council.
Donate here: https://www.eastsomervillemainstreets.org/murals
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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.