Walsh wants $69.2m for affordable housing push

Revealing what he called a “monumental investment,” Mayor Martin Walsh announced $69.2 million in new and recommended affordable housing funding from the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), the Neighborhood Housing Trust (NHT), and the Community Preservation Fund on Friday at Roxbury’s Urban Edge. 

The projects, two of which will provide affordable housing units in Dorchester and Mattapan, will be submitted to the City Council for approval with an anticipated hearing and vote in the coming weeks.

“Today we are announcing a monumental investment. We fund affordable housing every year, but this is the most we’ve ever done in the city of Boston,” the mayor said. “We are harnessing our city’s incredible economic strength to invest in all the things working people need. This will help build a strong middle class and will make a difference for years and generations to come.”

Per the recommendation, Dorchester Bay EDC would receive $2.6 million for its development of a project at 9 Leyland St., that would revitalize a vacant lot by building 43 affordable senior housing units, including five set aside for formerly homeless individuals, and incorporate energy efficient design standards for sustainability. 

In Mattapan, $1.86 million was recommended for a team from the city’s Planning Office of Urban Affairs and the Caribbean Integration Community Development for an affordable senior housing development at ​150 River St., of 30 affordable units for seniors, with 6 reserved for formerly homeless individuals. 

DND Director Sheila Dillon said that “housing is a passion for many in the room,” and added: “For folks that are following this closely, this administration is working really hard trying to solve our housing issues.” 

District 1 Councillor Lydia Edwards, the chair of the Housing Committee and the council’s representative on the NHT, said that “all hands are on deck” and working through project details to make housing a real opportunity in the city. 

“I look at this and I’m inspired and excited and I know that we’re going to be able to accomplish big things,” the councillor said. “We are completely dedicated to making sure that projects are not only affordable, but we ask the hard questions: Who is going to live there? Why would they want to come there? Where are your homeless set-aside units? It’s just not enough to call it affordable; we get into the details of who will afford it.”

Citywide, the funds would create or preserve a total of  1,097 units of housing — 936 new and 161 preserved – of which a majority would serve households with incomes at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or $71,100 or less for a family of four.

New residential units would include a combination of homeownership and rental options and units set aside for formerly homeless households, youth aging out of the foster care system, seniors, and artists.

“This is an important aspect of the work that Urban Edge does. Our focus is on African American and Latino communities that are going through issues of gentrification and displacement,” said Emilio Dorcely, chief executive officer at Urban Edge. “We work hard to make sure that everyone can continue to enjoy the prosperity that Boston is experiencing.”

Funding would come from three sources, said Walsh in explaining the breakdown: Roughly $38 million from municipal and federal funds administered by the DND; approximately $16 million in linkage funding from the Neighborhood Housing Trust (NHT); and almost $16 million from the Community Preservation Act’s outlay.

CPA funds amounting to $4 million will also be allotted to citywide affordable housing programs like ​Acquisition Opportunity and ​ONE+Boston.
On Jan. 27, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) approved the mayor’s recommendations.

“Recognizing the housing crisis facing Boston, the CPC chose to allocate 65 percent of available funds to affordable housing,” said CPC member Madeligne Tena. “In thinking about how to best serve those most in need, our priorities included rental housing for the lowest-income residents and affordable homeownership for households earning under 100 percent of AMI.”

At the event, Jerome Williams, a resident of 2Life Communities, which provides affordable housing to seniors at multiple campuses across the state, spoke about how securing affordable housing improved his life. 

“This is an exciting day for Boston and for people like me. I want to thank the mayor, as well as the partners and elected officials today for their commitment to creating affordable housing in Boston. This will help people who are the most in need – and I used to be there,” he said, adding:
“Funding like this helps people like me have a safe place to call home. I’m all right today.” 

Walsh encouraged housing advocates to celebrate: “Let me just say this: There have been a lot of challenges with housing over the last 30 years, and it seems to have intensified over the last four or five years.

“As I look out into the crowd, I see faces here that have been doing this work for a long time. I don’t think enough of you and us take a step back to celebrate the victories – and today is a victory.”