Affordable housing fading away at Stony Brook

Decreasing affordable housing at Stony Brook Commons on Blue Ledge Drive in Roslindale, formerly High Point Village, has one resident hoping a lawsuit against the property owner will bring back the old days.

“I used to know my neighbors,” said Elaine Marin-Ruff, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and member of High Point Families United. “I’ve lived here for 22 years. I don’t know many of my neighbors now. We all used to know each other.”

She added, “I’m not looking for anything personal. I just want my neighborhood back.”

There used to be 320 affordable housing units out of 540 at the property located, but Marin-Ruff said that number is down to just 189 units.

The property was built through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mortgage program.  That gave developers funds to build a property in exchange for maintaining a certain percentage of affordable housing through the Section 8 federal housing subsidy.

In 2006, High Point Village mortgage ended, and with it, the subsidy program expired. Bill Kargman, who runs First Realty Management and owns Stony Brook Commons, could have opted to join a federal enhanced-voucher program that would have continued offering affordable housing, but decided not to do so.

Low-income residents who were at Stony Brook Commons before the mortgage expired can continue staying there, but when they move out, the management company can start charging the full-market rate. The lawsuit was filed in 2006 when Kargman decided not to join the federal program. It alleges First Realty Management violated Massachusetts discrimination laws when it elected not to join the federal program.

Ellen Dolan, a spokesperson for the owners of Stony Brook Commons, issued a statement through e-mail saying, “This issue was brought to the court system in 2006 and we expect a decision sometime this spring.”

Michael Kane, executive director of JP-based Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, said there is no economic reason for not joining the federal program because it makes up the difference between what the low-income renters pay and the at-market rate through vouchers.

He also said at-market rate renters are receiving upgrades to their units that low-income renters are not. Kargman said that’s because the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) vouchers would not cover the higher rent the upgrades would cause, but the BHA replied they would make up the difference, according to Kane.

“That’s just flat-out discrimination,” said Kane. “It sends a message that low-income people are second-class citizens.”

Kargman’s decision to not join the voucher program has personally impacted Marin-Ruff as her son and daughter were looking to move into the development after graduating from college. They were unable to pay the at-market rates and were forced to find cheaper apartments in the suburbs, she said.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Marin-Ruff. “They would have loved to been here.”

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