Tag Archives: affordable housing

SEEN FROM THE HILL : WILL THE WALSH BRA HONOR COMMUNITY INPUT ?

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Folks,

Recent revelations, in the Boston Globe,of BRA dealings that benefit developers at the expense of a process that serves the community is nothing new!

As if we need reminding, Bartlett Yard/Place (the old MBTA bus garage in Roxbury) recently got BRA zoning commission approval.

The zoning commission process differs from zoning board of appeal (ZBA) approval. There, the principal community notification happens on the BRA web site, where community rebuttal to developer plans seemed dismissed (petition signed by nearly 90 community members to stop development because home ownership was not included in the first phase of development) in an effort to clear the way for developers to move forward.

Having that process move forward, without a clear community input on shaping the outcome of a project, is what we’ve been dealing with since not long after the ink had dried on the Bartlett RFP (request for proposal). Given that community input has been woefully marginalized, our only remaining recourse is to sue.

And now, a quick word to :Undersecretary Gornstein of Housing and Community Development for the State of Massachusetts: Mr. Gornstein, Nuestra does not have the required community support to move forward, but they’ll move forward anyway under this system and continue to destroy our community. Please continue to deny them funding!

The Bartlett RFP has very clear guidelines fora mix of housing affordability. the developer, Nuestra, is violating these in the very first phase of development, putting at risk the entire economic sustainability not only of the project, but also of the entire Roxbury neighborhood. Exactly three years ago, I wrote to the Bay state Banner a “letter to the editor” that I quote below. Home ownership was taken off the table at Atkins apartments too, a development done by Nuestra. Should we be surprised that Nuestra is delaying home ownership at Bartlett? Home ownership has yet to be incorporated at Atkins. What assurance do we have for Bartlett?

Putting economic sustainability at risk in neighborhoods in dire need of it is nothing new either. The community input that helped craft the Bartlett RFP understood this need for sustainability and insisted on income balanced housing — including an element of home ownership. The home ownership requirement spelled out in the RFP has been delayed because the developer cannot find funding — despite having the required community input.

What should trouble members of our community and what this latest Globe BRA article shines a light on: how continued abuse of power — Tom Menino’s legacy to Boston’s neighborhoods struggling for economic equality — impacts our community.
It’s no mystery that developers are eager to meet on January 2 of 2014, to the chagrin of the Walsh administration. With a BRA culture that spurns and mocks the very community input required to make development successful, and as bias and collusion continue, unchecked by oversight, it’s no wonder an envelope need never be passed. Or perhaps the envelop has morphed into a hefty campaign contribution. It’s time to put an end to the BRA and its culture.

The damage in Menino’s legacy has been tragic and devastating. The data cannot be refuted. As the Globe article states, the city, through the BRA, has and is prepared to put down millions on affordable housing projects in Roxbury, while in more affluent neighborhoods in Boston, developers are allowed to opt out of providing affordable housing (i.e. Back Bay/Beacon Hill, Central in the table below).

Menino’s own neighborhood of Hyde Park is next to the bottom for affordable housing options (7.3%). Not setting a very good example for affordable housing Mr. Mayor. Affordable housing should be regionally shared, it shouldn’t be concentrated in one community or neighborhood. Affordable housing units all but dominate all housing units in Roxbury at nearly 45%. If you include section 8 certificates, affordable units comprise well more than half of Roxbury housing — and that’s unsustainable!

Add to Menino’s legacy: a quadrupled wealth gap between whites and people of color in Boston under his tenure; failed schools; a diversity record, at city hall and on local construction sites, that’s far from inclusive.

Leadership for our community that doesn’t support a vision of development in which our struggle for economic mobility and parity will not change for the better, and we will remain poor !

Does the incoming Walsh administration’s vision of our future make similar assumptions ? Will Walsh make good on BRA reform?
Accountability is key! It’s time to dig in!

— Rodney Singleton / Seen From the Hill