We were pleased to hear at the recent meeting of the Jamaica Pond Association that city and state officials have reached an agreement with the owner of the Forbes apartment building at 545 Centre St. for rents to remain stable for the 75 low-income tenants who presently live there.
However, the agreement only extends through 2023, which essentially means that these tenants, almost all of whom are senior citizens with disabilities, still are in a state of limbo as to their long-term future.
For those unfamiliar with how we got to this point, here’s some history:
In the 1970s, the Commonwealth created the Section 13A Program, a state rental development initiative that resulted in the creation of more than 8,600 units of affordable housing for extremely low-income residents in 67 developments across the state. The 13A Program functioned as a debt service subsidy, reducing the interest rate on the mortgage to 1% for the developer.
The program provided a 40-year lifespan for each development. In other words, in return for accepting the low-interest financing, the developers agreed to a term of 40-years for the affordable housing units in their buildings.
All of the developments that were constructed in the 1970s that were subject to the 40-year terms have expired, with the contract for the Forbes Building, which was the last of these so-called expiring use projects, having reached its endpoint three years ago — which means that the owner has been free to raise rents to market-rate levels.
Presently, the rent for a market-rate one-bedroom apartment in the Forbes (the building always has had a mix of market and subsidized units among its total of 147 apartment units) reportedly is $2400.
Thus, for the past three years, the 75 low-income tenants, who have called the Forbes their home for many years, have been facing the threat of eviction — and with nowhere to go.
“Affordable housing” these days is a catchphrase heard on the lips of everyone, from politicians to developers.
But it strikes us that it is a lot like that adage about the weather — everybody’s talking about it, but nobody is doing anything. While the one-year agreement brings some measure of relief for the tenants, who are among the most-vulnerable members of our society, they deserve the dignity and peace-of-mind of a permanent solution — and we urge all of the parties involved to make it happen post-haste