NH housing advocates to rally Friday in support of Mass. tenant group protesting Brady Sullivan rent hike

Devenscrest Village in Ayers, Mass., was purchased in 2021 by Brady Sullivan Properties. File Photo

MANCHESTER, NH – Dozens of people are expected to take part in a rally Friday afternoon outside Brady Sullivan Tower in downtown Manchester in support of Ayer, Mass., tenants and to stand up against renovation evictions.

The Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP) is coordinating the event to take place at 4:30 p.m.

In 2021, Brady Sullivan Properties bought Devenscrest Village, a complex providing 2- and 3-bedroom apartments for 100 families.  Rents were doubled, GSOP said, making the apartments unaffordable for the families, senior citizens and people with disabilities who live there.

The tenants formed the Devenscrest Tenant Association which, with a developer of affordable housing, offered to buy the complex from Brady Sullivan for a “handsome profit.” GSOP says Brady Sullivan has refused to meet with them.

However,Devenscrest Management LLC, Brady Sullivan’s company which bought the complex, disputes those claims.

In a statement issued about the situation, Devenscrest Management says no tenant is being evicted unless they haven’t paid their rent or they committed a serious violation of their lease.  

They said the Devenscrest Tenant Association owes more than $30,000 in unpaid rents and some of its members have not paid rent for years.

Average rent was $900 a month, well below subsidized affordable housing rates in Massachusetts.  For the same apartments, Devenscrest rent averages $2,200 a month, still significantly lower than the 2024 Fair Market Rent documented by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Policy Development and Research. 

The company said they’ve repeatedly asked residents to meet with them in various forums but they have refused.

D’Amber Houle, a member of the Devenscrest Homeowners Association, as seen in a video created in 2021 following the sale of the development. Screenshot

“Over the years, we have made multiple proposals to these residents to address their concerns and ensure they could continue to be long-term residents of Devenscrest Village by paying substantially reduced rental rates. They have not responded at all,” management said in a statement.We have also asked the Tenant Association’s representatives to work together with us to connect residents with available resources and services. They have not done so in any way.”

The company said when they purchased the property in June 2021, it was in dire need of repair and renovation.

“These tenants continue to pay the same rent, despite their apartments and community being greatly enhanced with new paving, paint, and landscaping. Unfortunately, the Tenant Association is more interested in getting a free ride instead of working with us to preserve their tenancies long-term,” according to Devenscrest management.

“Millions of dollars have been invested into Devenscrest Village to date. Well beyond cosmetic enhancements, the renovated apartment homes have received new upgraded electrical systems, all new kitchens and bathrooms, new appliances, new heat and added central air conditioning and other major upgrades to make them more energy efficient and sustainable,” according to the owner.

The company maintains the tenant association’s view represents a small minority and that nearly 75% of the original residents of Devenscrest Village “chose to renew their leases at substantially below fair market rates, upgrade to a renovated apartment at a discounted rate or successfully relocate with our financial assistance. It is incredibly unfortunate that the Tenant Association, which does not speak for the majority of residents at Devenscrest Village, seeks to tarnish such a vibrant community of hard-working individuals and families.”

The company said, “Rather than trying to bully us into selling Devenscrest Village, it would be far more productive for the Tenant Association and their representatives to help residents secure financial assistance [Section 8] to remain long-term residents of Devenscrest Village at the reduced rental rates that are still being offered to them.”

The tenants’ association maintains that it is Brady Sullivan that is unwilling to work with tenants, and provided the following statement:

“Half the 110 residents in Devenscrest have left since Brady Sullivan took over, worried about the threat of eviction, or driven off by the doubling of rents in apartments that have been renovated. The vast majority of the remaining tenants are up to date on their rent.

The tenants association has asked to meet with Brady Sullivan multiple times since they bought the complex in 2021, but Brady Sullivan has so far not responded. The Devenscrest Tenant Association (DCTA) has reached out to Brady Sullivan every year asking Brady Sullivan to address the residents’ concerns to keep Devenscrest affordable.  In June of 2023, and again in October 2023, DCTA’s affordable housing development partner offered to purchase the property for $4 million more than what Brady Sullivan bought it for in 2021. DCTA’s partners have made multiple attempts to reach out to Brady Sullivan since then; all with no response.  What Brady Sullivan means is that individual tenants have not been willing to talk about quietly leaving their homes, so that Devenscrest can be turned into a high income community at rents that few existing residents can afford – in order to make enormous profits.

There is a win-win here for Brady Sullivan:  it could respond to the offers to sell the property to a responsible affordable housing developer and make a handsome profit in the process.”

Friday’s rally will kick off  at 3:30 p.m. at the Manchester Unitarian Universalist Church, 669 Union St.  Participants will walk from there to the sidewalk in front of Brady Sullivan Tower, 1750 Elm St.

The event is sponsored by GSOP, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester and Manchester Housing Alliance.

GSOP, a grassroots organization “that unites and empowers individuals to be agents of change and engage in shaping the decisions that affect their communities,” says anyone concerned about affordable housing is welcome to join the rally.