Holyoke tenants pushing for better living conditions, housing affordability

Tenants of rental properties across Holyoke coming out to Holyoke City Hall on Monday to make their voices heard.
Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 9:45 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 12, 2022 at 10:16 PM EST
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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - A town hall was held Monday night in Holyoke for residents to voice their concerns over living conditions and affordability in the city.

Residents said that they are living in unsafe conditions and struggling to make rent. Now, they are pushing for lower housing costs and more accessibility.

“We gotta do something because this struggle is not going to end with us,” said Niki Dawson, leader of the Western Mass Tenant Union.

Tenants of rental properties across Holyoke coming out to Holyoke City Hall on Monday to make their voices heard.

“So, all the tenants here will have rights so that we can live with dignity and respect in the area, and that the landlords know that they’re making money out of us, so they have to respect us,” Iris Espada, a volunteer with Neighbor to Neighbors said. “They have to give us a safe and decent place for us to live if they are going to raise our rent every month.”

Members of the Tenants Union of Western Mass and Neighbor to Neighbor, as well as residents of Holyoke, said that they are calling for rent control, more accountability from landlords, and are pushing for a tenant bill of rights.

“It would be nice to have, like, a tenant protection, somewhere to go when I need, like, advice and no legal action needs to be taken, you know, like a resource,” Dawson told us.

They said that 64% of Holyoke residents are tenants, and some of those tenants got emotional as they shared some of their experiences in front of the Holyoke City Council.

“We live in poor conditions,” one tenant said. “We have roaches because we have people upstairs who are hoarders. We have, literally, drywall peeling.”

“My 5 year old had lead poisoning,” another said.

“I cannot find housing in Holyoke that meets the needs of my family that I can afford,” said a third tenant.

“We have mice poop everywhere,” a fourth tenant told the council. “I buy $700 worth of food and I have to throw away $700 worth of food because the mice eat through everything.”

Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia told Western Mass News that these stories do not surprise him.

“I was born and raised here in the city of Holyoke, grew up on South Summer Street down in south Holyoke in a low-income family,” he said. “I’m a product of the environment that a lot of low-income families experience every single day.”

He added that he is glad to see residents exercising their rights and is encouraging them to continue to advocate.

“The rent, as is getting famously known, is just too damn high,” Mayor Garcia said. “Meanwhile, we get property owners that are not adequately maintaining their properties.”

He told us that his administration will continue to work on this problem, which is why he created the Flex Squad to hold landlords accountable.

“We’re going to continue to strengthen what we can within our departments, from the building department to the board of health,” Mayor Garcia said.

The Tenants Union of Western Mass said that if you are a tenant who is in need of assistance, you can contact them via email (tuofwmass@gmail.com) or reach out on their Facebook.