12/17/2018: I had the opportunity recently to talk with a local Burlington and former Bove Tenant on the record about her experience living in Bove housing for over 15 years. From the initial phone call I could tell Mayumi is an incredibly brave and strong woman. Not just because she lived in a slum for over a decade, not just because even during that experience she was earning a college degree, and not just because she was able and willing to speak publicly on the record (it helped that she recently found better housing and does not have to worry about landlord retaliation).
“Burlington was not like this when I was a kid.” – Mayumi
Anyone willing to share their story with me, a stranger, especially someone who have been marginalized by our city and community in multiple ways, deserves to be lauded and celebrated for their strength and bravery. I hope I can give this interview, and maybe in a small way Mayumi, justice.
Mayumi grew up in Burlington and moved to 90 Pearl Street, aka Victoria Place, when the building was built in 2001. It was run by both Mark and Rick, according to the Burlington Free Press and is still owned by both of them, an important consideration when assigning responsibility for what Mayumi tells me in the following piece. At any point Mark Bove, as co-owner, could have directed and exerted pressure on Rick to not be a slumlord. He could have tried to kick Rick out of the business (like their father did to his siblings) or sell his half to Rick. Instead, Mark did nothing.
This is important for many reasons, especially since the Free Press article makes it clear that both brothers would be in charge of managing the property. (The article itself is worth a read as it describes how the Boves evicted a single dad and his daughter with cystic fibrosis as retaliation for going to code enforcement). Their management quickly turned the building into hell for tenants.
“Bove Sr. and his wife own the land for the project. Sons Richard and Mark are developing the property and will be responsible for maintenance when tenants move.“Burlington Free Press, Dec 3, 2001.
Mark and Rick Bove ran the property so poorly that very early on Burlington Housing Authority had to take over managing the property, as the property succumbed to rampant and open drug dealing and using and prostitution. BHA managed the property pretty well and gave back reins to the Bove Brothers, seemingly on the condition that Rick and Mark no longer personally managed the property themselves and hired a competent property management company. Rick hired a new company, and for a while, when eyes were on the building, it was managed decently.
However, a few years later the same issues returned – things weren’t getting fixed on time or often at all, hallways were left dirty and unclean, and at one point the filter for gray water was left for years uncleaned in the basement and everyone became sick from the explosive mold growth. It wasn’t until someone threatened to call code enforcement that the problem was fixed. The Boves’ business model rests on ignoring problems, cutting corners, and renting to folks in economically compromised positions.
“The way he [Rick] does business – has no consideration for people as human beings.” – Mayumi
Even right before Mayumi moved out this past summer, people who didn’t live in the building were getting into the building and urinating in the hallways. Rick didn’t pay the recycling company, so recycling wasn’t being picked up for a while. Folks were even illegally living in the basement. At one point, due to the incredibly poor record keeping that goes on through Bove Brothers Management (Run by Emily Mailloux and Lori Conolly), Rick claimed that most residents hadn’t paid their deposit when they had. Before Mayumi moved out she had to go to the state to prove it was paid so that she could get her deposit back.
The housing that the Bove Brothers offer serves a purpose. Since we as a city and state put so little funds towards permanently affordable low-income housing, the thousands of folks who are low-income but don’t make it through the 8-10 year long waiting list for a Section 8 housing voucher often rent from the Boves. Unfortunately, as Mayumi told me, while it’s tough for those with Section 8 vouchers to get things fixed in a timely manner, those without vouchers are shit out of luck and rarely, if ever, get things fixed.
Mayumi also shared some other stories she has heard from neighbors, and how often times low-income tenants and workers are scared of the Boves, for they have the power to make tenants’ lives hell or to send them packing to live on the street.
- One man was working at the Boves’ factory and renting from the Boves. When he quit because he found a better job roofing, Rick tried to evict him.
- Someone who worked for Almighty Peaks Painting, who were hired by the Bove family for years, was paid 100% in heroin or cash under the table. The Boves continued to hire Almighty Peaks Painting because this way the Boves could maximize profits while keeping costs down, cutting corners even if it hurts tenants, or at best ‘looking the other way’ when drug dealers were ‘hired’ to fix units. Paying folks under the table is a typical business move.
- One woman called code enforcement a lot on the Boves and was illegally evicted – she won her case this year.
- One person who lived in the decrepit George Street Apartments and worked at the restaurant, John, who you may remember lived in buildings that weren’t fixed for over 15 years, was working under the table. Eventually he was evicted so that someone else could live in the apartment after the Boves finally fixed it 15 years later.
- Folks often won’t call in complaints because if code enforcement deems a property uninhabitable, there is no mechanism to quickly force landlords to pay for moving and new housing. Since low income residents have to take landlords to court, they often end up homeless and penniless, especially since the Boves seem to have a history of being in contempt when found guilty and owing money.
- It’s not all bad – Mark Bove can be very kind to folks face-to-face; one time Mayumi lost money in the laundromat and Mark quickly refunded her money.