Condos ate up rental housing, study says


HYDE SQ.—Six percent of the rental units in Hyde/Jackson Square and the Back of the Hill were converted into condominiums at a skyrocketing rate during 2000-2005, according to a new Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) study.

That totals 226 units—“the equivalent of 75 triple-deckers, or the entire conversion of Wyman and Forbes streets,” in the study’s language.

“I don’t even see it as a huge revelation,” said Sally Swenson, the JPNDC’s fund-raising and communications director. “It’s just a confirmation of what people have seen.”

The study was the pet project of Saara Nafici, a JPNDC intern from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s city planning program. Nafici combed city and private database records for the information, along with several on-site visits to confirm addresses.

Her study shows a rapid increase in condo conversions, from nine in 2000 to 85 last year.

Some streets were especially affected, though such rates obviously vary by street length and housing density. On Day Street, 23 units—or 22 percent of its housing stock—were converted.

The study found 36 new rental units built in the area during the same period, for a net loss of 190 rental units. The study found 103 rental units in the “pipeline” for construction or rehabilitation. By the same token, 105 market-rate condos and 25 affordable condos are in the pipeline in the area.

That includes projects being developed by the JPNDC itself. However, somewhat strangely, the study did not include the forthcoming Jackson Square redevelopment, in which JPNDC is a partner. That project will add scores of rental and condo units to the area.

The study does include the JPNDC’s Catherine Gallagher Co-Ops on the Back of the Hill, an area that was included so that the JPNDC’s own impact was not underplayed, Swenson said.

The study notes that the median sales price for a JP condo in 2005 was $324,900, compared to a median household income in Hyde/Jackson squares of about $47,500. By most financial standards, that would make median condo unaffordable to the median household

Swenson said the condo conversions likely mean that tenants have been displaced. Some of the condos may be rented out by their owners, but almost certainly at a higher rate.

The study period covers a time where Hyde Square drew attention as a desirable place for hip young professionals to buy relatively cheap condos, as famously publicized in a “Boston” magazine article.

The study counts only rental-to-condo conversions, not new construction or conversion of other uses, such as the former LCDC School on Wyman Street or the JPNDC’s own Blessed Sacrament Church redevelopment.

The study’s boundaries were, roughly, S. Huntington Avenue, Heath Street/Fisher Avenue, Lamartine/Parker streets, and Boylston Street.

“We were just curious,” said Swenson, explaining the reason for the study. “Hyde/Jackson has been the area where the JPNDC has been working most intensely for the last 15 years.”

JPNDC is a non-profit developer and community organizer. Its other projects in the area include the Centre/Wise/Lamartine mixed-use project, a senior housing project in Bromley-Heath and various scattered affordable housing developments.

Swenson said JPNDC staff are usually too busy to do such studies. But, she said, the organization intends to produce more data addressing “myths and preconceptions and prejudices” about affordable housing.

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