SEEN FROM THE HILL : HOW SHOULD ROXBURY ADDRESS REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT ? COLUMNIST RODNEY SINGLETON and DEVELOPER DAVID PRICE SPEAK OUT

David Price:

“Nuestra Comunidad seconds the call for representative community bodies with substantial review powers. Legitimacy through elections would be welcome. One over-looked issue is how poorly review committees, appointed or elected, have represented the community. Specifically, tenants represent the majority of Roxbury, and every other Boston neighborhood, but are almost always under-represented and sometimes un-represented on project review committees. The result is that homeowners dominate these committees. For better or worse, some homeowners in recent years, looking to bolster property values, have opposed affordable housing and called for 100% market rate development. It’s now crystal clear that such calls feed the escalating real estate market in Roxbury now resulting in gentrification and displacement. Tenants would not be inclined make this catastrophic error. Tenants are on the front line of gentrification and displacement.

“Also, tenants know through their lived experience that stable affordable housing is a platform for success for families. It allows for financial planning and savings. Nuestra’s experience is that every year, families leave our housing to buy a home. That is the reality of affordable rental housing, a reality that tenants understand first hand and that homeowners often mis-understand based on second-hand information.

“Let’s ask the BRA and DND to create a tenant representation policy so that project review committees truly represent the majority of Roxbury.

— David Price

Reply by Rodney Singleton:

“No doubt everybody in Roxbury welcomes a diverse community body with substantial review power.

“But review committees don’t fail or represent their constituency poorly because they lack an adequate voice from renters! Quite the contrary, homeowners that serve on these boards were once renters and renters also serve. Homeowners don’t dominate these review committees at all. Homeowners and renters have equal skin in the game!

“It’s also clear why tenants represent the majority of Roxbury households: corporate landlords like Nuestra CDC, City Realty and other CDCs perpetuate the tenant culture in Roxbury. And why not, it serves their needs! A portfolio of property ownership and management is lucrative, even if it is on the backs of the struggling and poor!

“For better or worse, some homeowners in recent years, looking to bolster property values, have opposed affordable housing and called for 100% market rate development.” Boy if that’s not pot calling the kettle black! Aren’t CDCs, corporate land/home owners, bolstering their own position as landlords by de-basing the legitimate voice of Roxbury homeowners and expanding their own interests of the tenant culture in Roxbury?

“Average homeowners in Roxbury are far from being corporate entities and by all accounts aren’t calling for 100% market-rate housing! We do acknowledge a skewed concentration of affordable housing in Roxbury that has left a dearth of workforce housing in the middle, where families cannot qualify for subsidized housing, or afford market-rate housing and find few options. Homeowners have advocated this imbalance in housing be more balanced to accommodate more struggling families squeezed in the middle.

“As tenants become homeowners, homeowners realize the best hedge against gentrification is to own the ground you wish to hold!

“In Roxbury, homeowners don’t bolster their property values! It’s more a question of quality of life because it’s home. By the way, renters seek that same quality of life. In fact, it’s pretty certain this is not unique to Roxbury. Pretty sure the idea of home is common in places like Milton, Wellesley, Weston, Needham and 347 other cities and towns across the state. There’s no lack of understanding on the part of homeowners when it comes to renters, we all call it home!

“Homeowners and renters advocating for a better quality of life in their own neighborhood does not feed an escalating real estate market in Roxbury to the point of gentrification and displacement.

“The riots in Baltimore remind us of the root causes of marginalization and gentrification/displacement when your neighborhood suddenly becomes popular: poor schools and lack of training options, lack of access to good jobs, and lack of access to business opportunities.

“If community development corporations like Nuestra CDC are really interested in fighting gentrification and displacement, perhaps they should divest their real estate holdings and invest in education, access to jobs and access business opportunities?

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— Rodney Singleton / Seen From the Hill

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