About 30 neighbors attended a meeting hosted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) last Wednesday to review plans for a proposed senior housing complex on what is now a vacant lot on River Street in Mattapan.
Reaction to the plan was generally positive.
The Planning Office for Urban Affairs and the Caribbean Integration Community Development (CICD) have partnered on the plan for 150 River St. that would total roughly 29,320 square feet, offering 30 affordable rental units for seniors aged 62 and over.
The three-story building would include 27 one-bedrooms and 3 studio apartments with 12 onsite parking spaces and a publicly accessible, shaded garden. The complex would also feature a multi-season screened porch, an indoor community room with a fireplace, a mailroom, and laundry amenities. It would be managed by Maloney Properties Inc.
Johnathan Garland, an architect with J. Garland Enterprises, LLC, presented an overview of the building design, which he said is currently in its “schematic design phase.” The layout of the property, he said, is designed to foster connections and a sense of community between the seniors who will call it home.
“We have a nice open living room, so as you come into the building the first thing you see is this warm, inviting space,” he said. “The rooms on the bottom level are open and directly connected because we understand that these kind of facilities foster connections between the seniors.”
One couple, who said they were direct abutters, was concerned that the property line might come very close to their back porch. Garland assured the couple that the team would work with them.
“The property line: That’s something that we can further examine as to where it actually is. We’ll go back and look at that,” said Garland. “I think the best way to deal with it is to see how we can collaborate and maybe have a working session on this. We’re happy to roll up our sleeves and work on that corner, even if we have to walk the property.”
Other questions hinged on concerns over the tenant selection process and what the term ‘affordable’ will mean for tenants.
Six of the units would be reserved for extremely low-income households at 30 percent Area Median Income (AMI.) Five units would be priced at 50 percent, 15 units would be reserved for renters at 60 percent, and four units would be available to those at 70 percent.
According to Beverly Johnson, project manager with the Planning Office for Urban Affairs, this would mean that the income-restricted rents would range from $600 a month on the lower end to a limit of roughly $1,300 a month on the high end.
Fatima Ali-Salaam, chair of the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council, asked the development team to think about all facets of what it means to provide affordable housing in the city.
“The electric is very expensive in Boston,” said Ali-Salaam. “Is there any concern about implementing sustainable solar panels or proper insulation to offset the costs to the residents? How are you going to mitigate those kinds of boundaries? If you’re talking about affordability, you have to talk about actual living affordability or we’ve missed a big mark.”
“We’ll look at the solar piece of it,” replied Garland. “A lot of that does depend on our location and are we in shade or sun. One thing I’ve done in previous projects is make them solar ready. We can provide the infrastructure for not too much of an upcharge in construction costs and then we might be able to apply for grants to get the solar panels installed.”
Jovan Lacet, a Mattapan activist, raised questions about the management, the lottery process for prospective tenants, and the likelihood of financing for the project.
“We want to know who is managing the properties and what are you doing to address the senior homelessness problem in Mattapan to ensure that more seniors in Mattapan get apartments instead of folks coming from all over Massachusetts,” he said.
Donald Alexis, founder and president of CCID, replied that the team would conduct outreach in the community to make sure that people in Mattapan are aware of the opportunity. He explained why the lottery process can’t restrict applications to being neighborhood-specific.
“Maloney Properties is one of the best in the business when it comes to managing the lottery process to make sure qualified residents in the community and around Boston apply,” said Alexis. “But once you receive city and state funding you cannot say ‘Only people living in 02126 can apply.’ But we’re committed to working with you to make sure people apply on time to give them the best chance possible.”
Kelly Shay, a development officer who works for the city of Boston, explained that the project is eligible for funding allocated specifically for senior housing.
“We are working with them to try to get financing for this project as quickly as we possibly can,” Shay said. “There are a lot of projects in line for financing at the state. The great thing about this project is [that] they actually submitted an application for a funding source that a lot of projects in the city are not eligible for. So I think they have a better shot of getting that funding more quickly.”