Extended process, 50% affordable housing good for Forest Hills

July 25, 2008
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In response to the Gazette’s article (“Forest Hills process does not end,” July 11, 2008), I would like to applaud the JP community’s extraordinary level of involvement in the planning of the Forest Hills Improvement Initiative (FHII). Although the process has been long, the BRA’s decision to “get it right and build consensus” by extending the planning process by a small number of additional meetings was a positive one. Already, we are seeing some emerging compromise steps on the height of the development. Clear information about a timeline and agenda for traffic redesign work should also be a part of these meetings.??

As the Gazette noted, another question for the FHII has been around affordable housing goals. In a letter distributed at the most recent FHII community meeting, state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson voiced “grave concern” over the BRA’s goal of having 50 percent of development’s housing units affordable, and suggested it should be lower. Having spoken to advocates on all sides of this issue, I disagree strongly with the senator on this point.??

With housing prices out of reach for many working families, affordable housing developments are vital to retaining economic diversity within our neighborhoods. JP’s unique neighborhood composition is what draws many residents to the neighborhood. The 50 percent goal was reached after thorough examination of the current balance of income levels in Forest Hills and with current residents’ needs in mind.??

Overall, this project embodies many principles of smart growth: mixed use; a range of income and affordability level; proximity to public transit; and the incorporation of green space into development plans. As a JP resident, I’m excited about the benefits that the Forest Hills Improvement Initiative will bring to our community and for the strengths it will preserve.??

Sonia Chang-Díaz
Jamaica Plain

The writer is a candidate for the 2nd Suffolk Massachusetts Senate seat as is incumbent Dianne Wilkerson and Socialist Workers Party member William Leonard.