Letter: JPNDC remains committed to affordable housing

The future of the Blessed Sacrament church has understandably received much attention in the Gazette recently. We are writing to emphasize the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation’s strong commitment to creating affordable homes in JP and to figuring out, if at all possible, an alternative to market-rate condos in the church.

After the Boston Archdiocese closed Blessed Sacrament in 2004, the JPNDC formed a partnership with New Atlantic Development Corporation to purchase the campus. With strong community support, we did so in 2005 and the following year participated in a public approval process led by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Mixed-income housing was always part of the overall proposal from the beginning, and market-rate condos in the church were part of the redevelopment plan approved during the 2006 public process. They were discussed at community meetings and reported in the Gazette.

Why would JPNDC, with its historic commitment to affordable housing, propose market-rate condos? The short answer is because doing so allowed us to create 81 new, permanently affordable homes for people who are otherwise shut out of JP. In more detail:

The high price ($6 million) paid to the Archdiocese required our partnership to obtain financing from supportive lenders. To obtain a mortgage we needed to prove we could pay it back. The mixed-use, multi-phase plan we put together drew on every single possible source of affordable housing funds, but these alone would not have been enough. Market-rate condos became the final puzzle piece that made it possible for us to create the 81 affordable homes on the campus—in contrast to perhaps a dozen or so if another developer had acquired the site.

We received tremendous support from public funders for affordable housing creation at Blessed Sacrament—except in the church. The high costs of turning the church into housing while preserving it as a historic landmark exceeded funders’ limits.

The formerly homeless individuals, low-income families and first-time homebuyers who now live at Blessed Sacrament are there because we took a huge risk in response to an enormous challenge. Given the desperate need for affordable housing, we believe that creating those homes was worth it.

Meanwhile, we have heard loud and clear that many in our community want an alternative to market-rate condos in the church. That’s why our partnership repeatedly delayed plans to go ahead with the original proposal, at significant financial costs. That’s also why we have remained in active discussions with the Hyde Square Task Force about its potential purchase of the church for community use.

The JPNDC remains 100 percent committed to building new affordable homes and to keeping Jamaica Plain a place where people with few resources can still live in homes they can afford. If you have questions about what we’re doing, we welcome you to contact us at [email protected]. Information is also available on our website, jpndc.org.

John Stainton, President

Richard Thal, Executive Director

Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation

Jamaica Plain

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