My name is Alba Oliver and I am a member of AHAC and a resident of Allston/Brighton.
As an immigrant, WOC, single mother, former houseless and section 8 voucher holder, DV survivor, professional, and a resident of Allston/Brighton, having access to an affordable home means stability, safety, independence, freedom, and possibilities.
When I fled DV, I struggled in different ways finding my next apartment; an affordable home that provided safety and stability for my daughter and I. When I searched for an affordable homes, it was triggering experiencing discrimination by different landlords. I would call different “for rent” apartment management or landlords, and when I mentioned that I was a section 8 voucher holder, they heard my thick accent, landlords would refuse to rent to me. I felt forced to settle for just any apartment that I could rent that was in my price range. I also wanted to make sure that when I no longer had the section 8 voucher, I would be able to afford the new home on my own, an affordable home.
When I moved to Allston/Brighton, I felt speechless by the difference in rent compared to Dorchester rent. I noticed that Allston/Brighton rents were so much higher than where BIPOC- majority renters lived in Boston neighborhoods. I also learned that Boston’s AMI includes non-Boston towns such as Wellesley, Newton, etc. I believe that this discrepancy has been the reason why WOC, BIPOC, and folks from the most vulnerable communities in Boston have experienced more displacement and gentrification in the last fifteen years.
I personally can identify with the fact that evictions and displacements due to rise in rent prices, can impact People of Color (POC) chances of finding an affordable home even if a section 8 voucher holder.
Soon after I moved to Allston/Brighton, I began getting involved in the community in hopes to unanimously address the issues of access to affordable and equitable housing for everyone. As a resident of Allston/Brighton, I continue being affected by access to affordable housing and the cost of rent. I do not believe a post graduate educated single mother should spend most of one third of their paycheck on housing. I work in a non profit organization where for over three years, I stabilized former houseless, mostly women of color (WOC), single mothers living in subsidized housing and seeing how difficult it was for WOC to find an affordable decent unit without having a section 8 voucher or living in public housing, it was heartbreaking. There is no way a single mother, family of three living on either TAFDC, SSI, or a $15,000 a year wage could afford an “affordable” unit in Boston without first being in shelter and acquiring a section 8 voucher. It is unreasonable and not fair!
When I became a member of AHAC, I was already convinced that my community was not as diverse as other Boston towns such as Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, due to the lack of access to equitable housing affordability, specifically for immigrants and POC. I made a commitment that when I joined AHAC, I would help advocate for more housing affordability in Allston/Brighton. Equitable and affordable housing should be everyone’s right and not a burden.