Affordable housing advocates not looking for personal gain

September 26, 2008
By

This is in response to the letter in the Sept. 12 JP Gazette signed by Ken and Tess Pope, et al., regarding the Forest Hills Improvement Initiative.

I am distressed with the distortion and inaccuracy evidenced by that letter, in which the authors state that those of us who are advocating for affordable housing are doing so out of interests in personal gain. This is a serious charge to which I take strong exception. They have also asserted that because we support affordable housing, we are pushing for maximum density on each site. There is much at stake for all of us, and with emotions running so high, it is all the more important that the discussion be informed by facts. A number of corrections are necessary:

Assertion: Housing is a “special interest.”

Fact: Along with food, water and clothing, housing is basic human need. Housing costs are typically the largest portion of a Boston household’s budget.

Assertion: Advocates for affordable housing are inappropriately part of a “special interest group” and have inappropriate affiliations with “various local nonprofit organizations, including a community development corporation (CDC).” Members of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) are employed by CDCs and have conflicts of interest.

Fact: No member of the JPNC is employed by any CDC, though one is employed by a statewide coalition of CDCs that does policy advocacy. That people who are active in their communities have multiple roles and affiliations is not, in itself, a conflict of interest, nor is it, in itself, inappropriate.

Assertion: Affordable housing advocates are opposing revisions to the density and live outside the area.

Fact: No one is advocating for maximum density on these parcels. In fact, no one, including the letter’s authors, has made any public statement that I am aware of regarding what they feel the density in Forest Hills ought to be. For the record, I live less than a mile from Forest Hills Station.

Assertion: Affordable housing advocates are less concerned with current residents of Forest Hills than with potential new residents.

Fact: Our goal of 50 percent affordable units in Forest Hills is out of concern that new development, while enhancing the neighborhood and property values, could also have the effect of driving lower-income residents from the neighborhood. Roughly 50 percent of Forest Hills residents make below 60 percent of the Area Median Income. The affordability we are looking for is an effort to protect those residents and reflects the current income distribution of the neighborhood.

That said, I believe the process should be as inclusive as possible, and the JPNC has been pushing for this every step of the way. We will all be affected by development in Forest Hills, and we all deserve a place at the table. But if the authors of the Sept. 12 letter are demanding disclosures, I believe the community at large has every right to expect the Realtors, developers, development consultants and their spouses among them to make disclosures of their own.

Francesca Fordiani
Chair, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Housing and Development Committee
Jamaica Plain