LYDIA FOR SENATE
Lydia Edwards is a champion for housing justice, having served as a legal aid attorney, the founding Deputy Director of the Office of Housing Stability, and a staunch advocate for affordable housing on the Boston City Council.
Lydia delivered results on the Boston City Council to stabilize housing for older homeowners, passing legislation to help seniors pay back property taxes. She wrote the law enabling real inclusionary zoning in Boston and won increases in affordable housing fees on large-scale commercial development.
Lydia has gained national attention for her successful advocacy. After Lydia authored a change to Boston’s zoning code to advance fair housing and civil rights, the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development described the policy as “groundbreaking.” When Lydia raised concerns about speculative real estate sales, the City of Boston petitioned the US Treasury to scrutinize all-cash sales and prevent illegal market activity.
But she has always focused on the housing crisis in the communities she serves. When Boston’s North End was devastated by investor-owned short term rental properties, Lydia teamed up with her colleague Michelle Wu to regulate services like AirBNB and end the worst abuses of our housing stock. In Boston’s Chinatown, Lydia negotiated the sale of historic row houses to a community land trust, preserving them as affordable in perpetuity.
When real estate developers told her 20% affordable housing on the Boston side of Suffolk Downs was impossible, Lydia worked with community leaders to, against all odds, secure unprecedented victories, despite a flawed process that privileged private interests before the public good. The East Boston Housing Stabilization Trust and rental relief funds continue to support East Boston families.
Lydia spearheaded reforms to the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal, resulting in an Executive Order by then-Mayor Marty Walsh and a home rule petition pending at the state legislature. She continues to work to improve transparency and accountability in city planning.
Lydia has already worked with officials across the First Suffolk and Middlesex District to fight for state reforms to housing policies. Over recent months, Lydia has advised on and advocated for new housing policy in Cambridge. Her advocacy has called for a new comprehensive housing policy focused on addressing the housing needs of Black, brown, and low- and middle-income residents and families, ultimately hoping to codify that housing is a human right. Additionally, she partnered with Senator Boncore to introduce the HOMES Act, legislation to seal eviction records and give struggling tenants a second chance. In the legislature, she’ll be an unparalleled fighting for housing justice.
Climate and Environmental Justice
Every person in our Commonwealth has the right to clear air and water, but for too long, low-income communities, immigrants and people of color have faced disproportionate levels of pollution while also being denied opportunity in the green economy.
As a city councilor, Lydia Edwards has fought against corporate polluters and pressed for investment in clean energy and public transit. She’s worked to cut pollution from Logan Airport and pushed Massport to invest in air filtration systems for public schools, community centers, and housing. From day one, she opposed Eversource’s poorly-sited electrical substation in East Boston, urging the state to consider lower-impact, clean energy alternatives.
Lydia believes communities deserve control of their energy systems. In the legislature, she’ll work to break up big utilities and restore public control, oversight, and ownership of our electric power system. She’ll also fight to ensure equitable access to energy efficiency and green jobs, especially for those communities most impacted by the climate crisis.
Lydia has voted to support climate resilience investments in Boston’s park systems, protecting both nature and neighborhoods, and supported a Wetlands Protection Ordinance to preserve critical environmental areas. As part of the mitigation from the Suffolk Downs project, Lydia secured increased staffing at the Department of Conservation and Recreation to steward Belle Isle Marsh. Learning from the loss of open space in Boston’s Seaport, Lydia demanded, and secured, permanent conservation restrictions (or in some cases, public ownership) for open and green spaces at Suffolk Downs, and supported expansion of pedestrian paths and bikeways.
Lydia is a strong proponent of affordable water transportation. As communities in the First Suffolk and Middlesex renew efforts to expand water transportation, Lydia will ensure that all people in the communities she serves have the means to get “on board.”
Good Jobs & Economic Democracy
Lydia is a fierce advocate for workers’ rights. In the Senate, she’ll continue her strong record of passing legislation and delivering resources and results for working people. As a member of the United Auto Workers, Lydia knows the power of a union, but she also knows that every worker, organized or not, deserves dignity, fair compensation and freedom from harassment in the workplace.
In 2014, Lydia led the successful efforts to win statewide labor protections for domestic workers,
nannies and house cleaners cut out of the New Deal. Years later, she helped defeat efforts to roll back provisions of the same law which would have left au pairs vulnerable to labor exploitation. Lydia has since fought to eliminate sub-minimum tipped wages for restaurant workers - a legacy of slavery - and to provide financial resources to restaurants who change their business model to a single, equal wage. Her advocacy resulted in the creation of a Restaurant Revitalization Fund to improve conditions for both restaurants and workers.
At Suffolk Downs, Lydia stood by labor to win a Project Labor Agreement at the largest private development project in Boston’s history, creating good union jobs for a whole generation of workers. Learning from barriers to employment faced by immigrant workers at the Everett casino, and drawing from a model for language access created by SEIU 32BJ, Lydia fought for commitments to language justice and won an unprecedented investment in ESL for job training.
Lydia Edwards has stood with workers in the hospitality industry, service workers at Logan Airport, student workers in our higher education system, teachers, Brazilian immigrant workers and many others.
Recently, Lydia led the effort to create a Boston-Cambridge tourism marketing district. This partnership between cities of Boston and Cambridge, and hotels in both communities, will create revenue to stimulate the economy and promote local businesses, particularly critical in the wake of COVID-19’s devastating impacts on the physical and financial health of our communities.
Lydia sponsored a game-changing ballot initiative to reform the budgetary process and bring participatory budgeting to the City of Boston. The reform would result in several key changes: better representation of residents by their local elected officials, and the direct ability of voters to direct a portion of the budget.
Lydia will fight to expand workers’ rights and to bring economic democracy to all of Massachusetts.
Lydia is a product of public schools. As a young learner, teachers and mentors in the school system changed her life, opened up opportunities and created a bridge to a better life. Lydia is committed to stand with students, parents and teachers in the fight for a fully funded, equitable, sustainable, and anti-racist education system.
When housing costs and the displacement crisis resulted in students forced to leave Boston, Lydia stood with students, parents and teachers to fight back against draconian budget cuts and a downward spiral that continued to push students out. In East Boston and Charlestown, she has worked extensively to ensure full utilization of school building spaces, modular classrooms and other educational opportunities.
Lydia has fought to address transportation inequities for special needs students. She has called for implementation of an ethnic studies program. She worked with Councilor Matt O’Malley to secure the availability of menstrual products in public schools. She’s fought to end hair discrimination that has resulted in discipline and suspension of Black girls across the nation.
As a state senator, Lydia will fight for:
School funding to enable smaller class sizes
Staffing and resources to support students impacted by mental health and trauma
Replicating partnerships such as those in Boston Public Schools to house homeless and overcrowded families
Fair wages for educators
A Green New Deal to retrofit and reimagine sustainability in public schools
Health, Recovery and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare stark inequalities that already existed beneath the surface of our society. Low-income communities and BIPOC communities, as well as older Americans and persons with disabilities, face terrible health challenges and unequal burdens: from disparities in rates of asthma and cardiovascular disease, to mental health and substance use disorder, to social isolation and loss of personal autonomy.
Lydia believes in local and community models of care, centered on investment in public health infrastructure, our neighborhood health centers, and healthcare workers. She has stood by the nurses and medical workers who have carried us through the COVID-19 pandemic, and she will continue to fight to address the root causes of health disparities: poverty, pollution, disinvestment and racism in our healthcare system.
Communities of the 1st Suffolk and Middelesex face high rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) due to pollution from Logan Airport, idling traffic and other sources of toxic emissions. Lydia will continue to press for emission reductions from large institutions like Massport and for sustainable planning that leads to healthier, more sustainable neighborhoods.
Leading advocates have decried Massachusetts’ disinvestment in local public health, accurate data collection and equity standards. Lydia believes to tackle the health disparities across the Commonwealth, we need sustainable funding and effective public services coupled with community investments in food security, behavioral health, compassion for people suffering addiction, and offroads for justice-involved youth that create alternatives to incarceration. The state also needs specific and dedicated investments to expand behavioral health services for children, who continue to languish in emergency rooms for days or weeks without receiving adequate care.
As a former board member of the Boston Center for Independent Living, Lydia will fight for public policy that sees members of our communities with physical or mental disabilities as fully human and deserving of equitable access to participate in our society. This means advocating for physically accessible buildings, expanded internet access and public meeting opportunities to enable remote participation, and workplace standards that invite and welcome all residents to contribute to our society.
Communities in the First Suffolk and Middlesex are choking on traffic pollution. Only when we tackle congestion, invest in public transit, and promote true freedom of mobility can our communities thrive.
Lydia has worked to support local, state and regional efforts to reduce transportation pollution and raise revenue for critical investments in public transit. As Councilor, Lydia has sponsored legislation to require pre-tax transportation benefits, incenting more affordable transportation options for workers. She’s also taken on the extractive and exploitative towing industry, introducing a Towing Bill of Rights to protect consumers who have been taken advantage of by predatory companies.
Lydia’s advocacy on the Suffolk Downs development expanded pedestrian and bicycle mitigation from the development. She fought back against, and defeated, inbound highway expansion on Route 1A, protecting communities already overburdened by air pollution. Lydia has also fought for bicycle-friendly commutes and she will continue to stand up for “Vision Zero” principles that ensure everyone is safe and secure as they move about their day.
Lydia has been a vocal supporter of water transportation from day one, pushing for an expansive and affordable network of ferry service. As a state legislator, she will reinvigorate a Water Transportation caucus and press for low-income fares transit options as a pathway to a free and sustainable public transportation. Lydia also supports bus prioritization that will accelerate transit and that workers and employers can get the day started instead of languishing in traffic.
Gender Justice and LGBTQ Rights
As the daughter of a single mom, and as an organizer standing with low-income women and victims of labor trafficking, Lydia has always felt the critical draw to fight for gender and reproductive justice.
Working as a law clerk, she watched young people unprepared forced to go through the court system to request medical care. These experiences, among others, drove her to advocate for passage of the ROE Act, legislation sorely needed in the wake of rollbacks of reproductive rights across the country.
On the Boston City Council Lydia sponsored legislation to provide workers’ paid leave for loss of pregnancy, ensuring that those who have already dealt with pain, grief, and difficult medical decisions are protected. She worked with colleagues on the Boston City Council to push for availability of menstrual products in public schools. She’s stood up for workers facing gender-based discrimination and sexual violence in the workplace. And as real estate developers increasingly seek to build studio and one-bedroom units, Lydia has fought to ensure housing is available to expecting parents and families with children.
From protecting health care choices to fighting back against environmental pollution that hurts pregnant individuals and children, Lydia will stand up for gender and reproductive justice in the Massachusetts Senate.
Lydia has also been an ally to the LGBTQ community as an advocate, as a district councilor in the neighborhoods she represents, and as a local legislator. Before entering public service, Lydia supported updates to the state’s public accommodations law. Later, she backed the Yes on 3 campaign to uphold these protections based on gender identity.
As Chair of the Government Operations committee of the Boston City Council, she advanced and passed legislation to provide gender inclusivity on all city forms. She started the first ever Pride flag raising in Charlestown, a part of her council district. She pushed the City of Boston to fund and reconvene its Human Rights Commission, an independent body which investigates civil rights violations in the workplace as well as broader human rights issues.
The LGBTQ community faces barriers to accessing housing across the age spectrum, with high rates of homelessness among LGBTQ youth, and a stark lack of housing supply for LGBTQ seniors. Employment discrimination, barriers to inclusive health care, tragically high rates of suicide among LGBTQ youth and a lack of culturally responsive pathways for LGBTQ foster children also pose barriers.
As a Senator, Lydia will work with the LGBTQ community to fund inclusive housing, strengthen protections for homeless and foster youth, expand access to identification cards, improve physical and mental health outcomes, and advance civil rights.