By Danielle Ray
AYER – Over 200 residents attended a gathering last Friday to express frustration and fear after notices of intent to evict in 60 days were recently sent out more than 50 families who reside at Devenscrest Village from the complex’s new landlord, Devenscrest Management LLC.
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Rep. Sheila Curran Harrington spoke with residents at the July 16 meeting and gave them a clear message – do not leave your homes.
“We're getting Legal Aid help, and if tenants can stick together, we can fight the developer,” Eldridge wrote on his Facebook page following the meeting.
Eldridge, who called the eviction notices “a punch to the gut of this tight knit neighborhood,” wrote that he is “disgusted, heartbroken, angry and fired up over this housing injustice.”
“Grateful to Ayer community leaders, including School Committeewoman Erica Spann, Police Chief Brian Gill, and Stone Soup founder Cyndi Lavin for being here tonight,” Eldridge penned. “The affordable housing crisis is coming to the Nashoba Valley. I stand with the Devenscrest residents in fighting back.”
According to a newspaper article the apartments were recently sold to the real estate company Brady Sullivan Properties out of New Hampshire.
When asked for a quote to clarify their point of view, Devenscrest Management emailed this reporter the following statement:
"Devenscrest Management is grateful for the opportunity to revitalize a long-neglected neighborhood in the beautiful and vibrant town of Ayer, Massachusetts. Millions of dollars are being invested in badly needed repairs and renovations to every apartment. Every apartment will be insulated and have installed new appliances, new kitchens, new flooring, a new heating system and central air conditioning. These extensive repairs and renovations cannot be safely performed while occupied with residents. No one has been served with an eviction notice, is being evicted or at this time will have an eviction on their record from Devenscrest Apartments. Residents have been given a Notice of Termination of Tenancy giving them in excess of 75 days to relocate. This is more than twice the amount of time that the law requires be provided. We recognize that relocating one’s home can be difficult. As we have stated to all residents with whom we have spoken, we will work with those residents who require additional time to find a new home. Devencrest Management is committed to working closely and cooperatively with residents through this time of transition."
Eldridge told residents they should continue to pay their rent. Cyndi Lavin of Stone Soup Kitchen, who offered their space at Living Water Fellowship church on Littleton Road for the meeting, said Eldridge collected the names of those who would like free legal representation from Northeast Legal Aid and “reassured them that they did not have to leave their homes.”
“It was crucial for us to provide the space for the meeting and invite state and town leaders to come help,” Lavin said. “These are our neighbors, our friends, the children in our schools, veterans, beloved members of our community. How could we possibly not help them?”
Lavin went on to write that the town “could not have presented this sale.”
“…this is not a new development that had to come before any of the Boards for approval,” she wrote. “It was a private sale, not subject to regulation, including Affordable Housing by-laws. Still, if you stay united and continue to bring pressure (very politely!) on everyone concerned (Brady Sullivan, the Town, and the State), I truly believe you may yet see a miracle.”
MA Real Estate Center posted in the Ayer, MA Community page on Facebook on July 15 a long list of many rental properties they have available that range in price from $800 a month to $4,900 a month in case it comes to that, and the community as a whole as well as local and state officials are rallying around the Devenscrest residents who are in a sense in a David versus Goliath scenario.
"I stand with the residents of Devenscrest apartments in Ayer against the attempted mass eviction by Mr. Arthur Sullivan, the new owner of this historic post-World War II housing development,” Eldridge said. “I urge residents to remain in their homes and remember, only a judge can evict you."