Local residents, groups hold rally in support of affordable housing

On Saturday, February 20, Boston residents, along with City Life/Vida Urbana and the Boston Tenant Coalition, gathered outside the site of the proposed Pine St. Inn affordable housing project at 3368 Washington St. for a rally to support affordable housing in the neighborhood.

A simultaneous virtual rally was held via Zoom, and participants both in person and virtually took turns saying why they believe affordable housing is important. 

The rally was in support of 202 units of affordable housing—140 for people coming out of homelessness and 62 for low and moderate income families—at 3368 Washington St., proposed by Pine Street Inn and the Community Builders, which has a lawsuit brought against it by the owner of 3377 Washington St., Monty Gold. 3377 Washington is the home of Turtle Swamp Brewing. 

A request for comment was not returned by Gold’s attorney by press time. 

The rally also supported the proposed 39 units of affordable senior housing and the preservation of El Embajador restaurant at 3371 Washington St. by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC). 

There is also a petition put together by City Life/Vida Urbana that asks Gold to drop the lawsuit, according to JP resident Sarah Horsley. She said a few thousand people have already signed it, and once you sign, an email gets sent directly to Gold, and “he may even email you back,” she said.

Katy Connolly was in charge of livestreaming the in-person rally, where neighbors gathered with signs that said things like “Housing for People NOT for Profit,” and “Housing is a Human Right,” among others. 

JP Ferreira, an East Boston resident, said on Zoom that he stands in solidarity with the Jamaica Plain residents, as he sees displacement and unaffordable homes being built in his own neighborhood.

“I see my neighborhood changing by the second,” he said. “I want more people to have incentives to stay here, not incentives to get out. They make the city better and I think that affordable housing is something to fight for regardless of where it is in the city.”

Grace Hall,  a Somerville resident, said, “I have a very nice place to live and it bothers me that anyone in Massachusetts can’t have a decent house, enough food, and access to health care. It seems to me that those are minimum things that everybody ought to have.” She said that she wants “to help get things more equitable” in whatever way she can.

Alex Ponte-Capellan, a community organizer for City Life/Vida Urbana, led the in-person rally and said that “when we found out that there was a lawsuit blocking [the Pine St. Inn project] from happening…personally I was upset,” he said. He added that “the biggest affordable housing” project for formerly homeless people is “being stopped. Why?” Those in attendance chanted “greed!”

He said that Gold “masks” the greed through claiming the project is too high and has issues with the parking, but “we see right through that—it is racist and it is classist.” 

Ponte-Capellan also talked about the JPNDC senior housing project. 

“That building is going to add much more affordable housing for seniors,” he said. “Shelters are getting crowded. People are rooming with their friends and family.” He said that not having enough affordable housing is “going to lead to deaths. People’s lives are on the line right now.”

Resident Shameeka Moreno said that she had worked with homeless families before becoming homeless herself. “The community comes from the mom-and-pop shops, kids who grew up here with their families,” she said. “I wanted my kids to be well-rounded,” and she said that being forced to move out of the suburbs would to provide the same experiences that living in a city would provide to her children.

“I’m from here,” she said. “Why should I have to leave here to accommodate somebody else?”

Sara Driscoll, a resident of the Farnsworth House on South St., said that she had been evicted several times over the years for things like property owners selling their buildings and gentrification. “Just keep fighting,” she said. “You’ve got to make it happen.” 

Resident Bonnie  Rovics said she’s lived in JP for nearly 30 years. “I was homeless; I left home young,” she said. “I used to know every homeless person in Boston 30 years ago,” and she said that a great deal of homeless people “are just amazing people who need a house,” and she said creating more housing for them is absolutely necessary.

Without more affordable housing, she said that JP will lose more restaurants, businesses, and teachers. “We’ll lose the neighborhood,” she said. There are “so many reasons why we need these projects.”

Kathy Brown from the Boston Tenant Coalition spoke about the group’s Coalition for a Truly Affordable Boston that asks “luxury developers to provide more affordable housing,” as the city currently only requires 13 percent for projects with units over a certain number as part of its Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP). She said that this is important to “make sure it’s actually affordable for Boston residents” to stay in their neighborhoods. She said that about 20 organizations are currently part of it, and there is also a hearing coming up on this topic. 

“We are the powerful people,” said JP activist Betsaida Gutierrez.

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