Forest Hills growing pains should result in well-mixed-income housing

May 30, 2008
By

I am currently on the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council representing Area C and live in the Forest Hills area. I was at a meeting for the Forest Hills Improvement Initiative on May 22. I have taken part in the process for well over a year. Though I have witnessed many positive things about this process, I have to say that the same tired old argument against affordable housing keeps rearing its ugly head.

Some people are saying that 50 percent affordable housing on public land and 30 percent on private land would turn Forest Hills into a “ghetto.” I can only ask Jamaica Plain: Haven’t we learned over the years that affordable housing is not a detriment to Jamaica Plain, but rather an important and valuable asset?

I would suggest a scenario where the 50 percent and 30 percent affordable housing could be divided into thirds for the following three groups: the elderly; people who make 80 percent of the Boston median income; and low-income people.

Half of each third should be home-ownership, the other rental. All units should be mixed with market-rate units. This does not create a ghetto—it creates a neighborhood.

There are still many issues that have to be sorted out with the design guidelines for the area. I am an affordable housing advocate and have been for years, but I do not have just affordable housing in mind when I look at my neighborhood, as some will say about affordable housing supporters. I believe keeping a lot of green space is important as well as traffic flow, youth-oriented areas and bike paths. I share many people’s view that seven stories for the parking lot parcel and the Fitzgerald lot are too high and dense for this area.

I would point out that the only bad thing about affordable housing is the lack of it. My biggest hope is that after all is said and done we all realize that we will still be living next to each other in the same neighborhood. My greatest fear is that the neighborhood that I live in and treasure will not be accessible to everyone.

If we value the diversity of Jamaica Plain, it only makes sense that we all take proper precautions to preserve it. Let’s leave past prejudice about class in the past where it belongs and look at a future that includes us all. It takes more than income to make a neighborhood.

Red Burrows
Jamaica Plain