Wu Announces Investment of $67 Million To Create and Preserve 802 Income-Restricted Homes in Boston

Special to the Gazette

On Thursday, Feb. 16, Mayor Michelle Wu came to Jamaica Plain and  joined the Hyde Square Task Force, affordable housing developers, and community organizations at the site of the former Blessed Sacrament church to announce $67 million in new recommended funding from the Mayor’s Office of Housing, the Community Preservation Fund, and the Neighborhood Housing Trust (NHT) to create and preserve more than 800 income-restricted units of housing in eight Boston neighborhoods. The Blessed Sacrament site is one of the projects that will be funded. The ambitious portfolio consists of 17 projects with a total of 802 units of mixed-income housing that includes rental housing for families, while also creating new homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income Bostonians. Of the 802 units, 160 will be income restricted housing for seniors. These proposed projects meet the Mayor’s Office of Housing standards for zero-emissions buildings and represent transit-oriented, green development.

Residents and officials gather on Feb. 16 at the former Blessed Sacrament Chuch where Mayor Wu announced $67 million in funding from the Mayor’s Office of Housing, the Community Preservation Fund, and the Neighborhood Housing Trust (NHT).
State Rep. Samantha Montaño, Mayor Michelle Wu, and Boston City Councilors Mackenzie Bok and Kendra Lara.

“We are partnering with community and using every tool that the City has to urgently address Boston’s housing crisis,” said Mayor Wu. “These housing awards represent significant investments in making our communities stronger and more affordable, ensuring that Boston remains a place that current residents, families and future generations can call home. I’m grateful to the Neighborhood Housing Trust and the Community Preservation Committee for their leadership and as we continue our work to build a Boston for everyone.”

In 2022, the City of Boston released two Requests for Proposals (RFP) offering funds for affordable housing developments. The Mayor’s Office of Housing, the Community Preservation Committee, and the Neighborhood Housing Trust evaluated the proposals and prioritized 17 projects. These projects will promote City goals to affirmatively further fair housing, and will efficiently utilize City resources and land to increase the supply of housing available to low- and moderate-income households.

The RFPs required developers to support and implement the City of Boston’s equity & inclusion goals. Projects where BIPOC individuals and entities represented 25 percent or more of the development team leadership received a high preference for the funding awards. Development teams where 25 percent or more of soft costs go to MBE subcontractors also received this advantage. Applicants were also required to provide information on how services offered in multifamily buildings will help support the economic mobility of residents who will live in income-restricted housing units.

“The funding being made available today will assist with the creation and preservation of 800 affordable homes.  These high quality, green developments are located in neighborhoods throughout the City and will provide our residents stable housing options that they can afford,” said Sheila Dillon, Chief of Housing. “This portfolio of projects includes both rental and homeownership opportunities, family, senior housing and supportive housing. All of these developments will benefit and strengthen our residents, our communities and our City.”

“The development of housing that is accessible to residents at a variety of income levels is critically important to the future of Boston,” said Kenan Bigby, Managing Director of Trinity Financial, Inc. “We are thankful for the City of Boston’s support of the project at 2085 Washington. These funds will allow us to develop needed affordable homeownership opportunities in Roxbury.”

All the new construction projects funded in this round will be required to follow the Zero Emissions Building (ZEB) requirements outlined in the MOH Design Standards. Developers were required to submit and adhere to a Net Zero Strategy as part of the design submission. New developments will use electricity and on-site solar panels as the sole (or primary) fuel source.

“South Boston NDC is grateful for funding support from the City of Boston, which will allow us to create affordable senior housing for our most vulnerable residents,” said Donna Brown, Executive Director of the South Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation. “Funding for McDevitt Senior Homes will enable elderly residents to age in community, with the supportive services they need. We applaud the City’s commitment to providing critical resources to address our housing needs.”

The new funding for income-restricted housing was made possible in part by more than $32.5 million in municipal and federal funds administered by the Mayor’s Office of Housing. More than $13.9 million in funds come from the NHT through the City’s Linkage policy, which extracts affordable housing funds from developers of large commercial projects.

“We’re proud to continue to support the Neighborhood Housing Trust through the work we do at the Boston Planning & Development Agency,” said Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison. “In 2022, the BPDA Board approved new development projected to generate approximately $40.7 million in linkage fees to support affordable housing in Boston. I am hopeful that there will be even more funding to go towards new, affordable homes for Bostonians, in the years to come.”

The Community Preservation Committee is recommending more than $20.4 million for the proposed projects. These projects are part of a larger award that includes income-restricted housing, historic preservation, and open space projects. The final slate of CPA-recommended projects will go to the City Council for review and approval in February.

“Building and preserving affordable housing is critical for the health and vibrancy of our communities in Boston,” said Felicia Jacques, Chair of the Community Preservation Committee. “As housing costs continue to rise, many families and individuals are being priced out of the city, exacerbating displacement and a loss of diversity. The Community Preservation Committee is committed to investing in well-designed, climate-ready affordable housing initiatives that provide safe and stable homes for our residents.  By doing so, we ensure that our communities remain inclusive while supporting economic growth and sustainability. Investing in affordable housing is an investment in the future of our city and the well-being of our residents.”

“As Boston continues to grow and thrive, it’s critical that we prioritize affordable housing to ensure that our communities remain diverse and inclusive,” said Catherine Hardaway, chair of the Neighborhood Housing Trust. “Affordable housing not only provides stable, quality homes for families and individuals, but also supports economic development and social equity. The Neighborhood Housing Trust is dedicated to advancing affordable housing solutions in Boston, working in partnership with developers, community groups, and residents. By investing in affordable housing, we can build stronger, more resilient neighborhoods that provide opportunities for all residents to thrive.”

In addition to these City sources, the Mayor’s Office of Housing has at its disposal significant federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that can be used for income-restricted housing development. In July, the Boston City Council approved Mayor Wu’s precedent-setting investment in income-restricted housing from ARPA funds, committing more than $205 million to address specific housing issues. These investments include:

• $58 million for income-restricted housing production and financial support to homebuyers

• $30 million to transform publicly-owned land into green, mixed-income communities

• $26 million for property acquisitions to prevent displacement

• $20 million for greening income-restricted housing through deep green energy retrofits of existing buildings

• $19 million to create new permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals with substance use and behavioral health disorders

The following is a list of the local proposals that are receiving funding from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and NHT, as well as recommended projects for inclusion in the current round of the CPA funding:

• Pennrose Development and the Hyde Square Task Force will redevelop the former Blessed Sacrament Church with $6,250,000 in funding. The development team will create 55 mixed-income units of rental housing and a new performance space for the Hyde Square Task Force Creative Arts Program.

• The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation will redevelop the Boston Housing Authority’s Mildred Hailey Housing’s Phase 2 with $5,200,000 in funding. This phase includes demolition and abatement of two existing buildings to create a new 6-story, 100 percent income-restricted, 65-unit building, consisting of 23 public housing replacement units and 42 new units of income-restricted housing restricted at 60 percent of AMI or below.

• Urban Edge Community Development Corporation will redevelop the Boston Housing Authority’s (BHA) Mildred Hailey Housing Phase 3 with $4,000,000 in funding. The development project includes demolition and abatement of the existing building to create a new six-story building with 60 units of income-restricted rental housing with 22 of the units being BHA housing replacement units, in addition, 38 of the new income-restricted housing units are restricted at 60 percent of AMI or below.

To help choose appropriate developments for funding and best achieve the City’s goals to create equitable mixed-income housing, the City of Boston established funding priorities that were adhered to while making these awards. Proposals submitted were expected to fall under at least one of the priority criteria:

• Affordable housing developments that utilize City-owned land.

• Affordable housing developments targeting a mix of incomes: from units for homeless households to units targeted and restricted to incomes representative of Boston’s workforce. The City prioritizes proposals that, in addition to the homeless set aside, provide some portion of units targeting extremely low-income tenancies.

• Affordable housing developments have reduced the cost to build and/or efficiently use subsidies so that the project can move into construction more quickly.

• Affordable housing developments provide units that serve the disabled community, elders, veterans, artists, aging-out youth, etc.

• Acquisition of unrestricted housing developments to stabilize the tenancies and provide long-term affordability for a mix of incomes (i.e. unrestricted properties).

• Developments that are at risk of losing their affordability within 5 years.

• Large projects with more than 50 units of housing, of which at least 51 percent will be deed-restricted income-restricted units.

• Projects that create new income-restricted units in high-cost neighborhoods where most of the IDP funds are generated.

• Projects that contain income-restricted units that cannot be funded from other subsidy sources available under this RFP, or through the NHT RFP.

• Projects that can quickly acquire existing unregulated units and convert them into long-term income-restricted housing.

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