Many neighbors want attention paid to affordable housing

I am writing in response to Reuven Steinberg’s letter in the April 13, 2007 issue of the JP Gazette. Mr. Steinberg says “the JPNC endorsed a petition calling for 50 percent affordable housing on the parcels, evidently without any effort to gauge the Forest Hills neighborhood’s or greater JP’s interest in such a target.”

I am a member of the JP Neighborhood Council and a resident of the Forest Hills neighborhood. I have attended Forest Hill Improvement Initiative working group meetings, two large community meetings and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) walking tour of the site. At both community meetings I spoke about how important affordable housing was to me and I heard a number of other participants raise the issue.

Some of my neighbors and I felt that affordable housing was given little or no emphasis in the notes from the meetings or in the set of principles being formed. We also knew that a number of residents who have not attended meetings shared our interest in seeing affordable housing included in any development on publicly owned land. We don’t want to see land that, in essence, belongs to all of us generate large profits for developers without benefiting the community at large. The petition was an effort to gauge our neighborhood’s interest. We went door-to-door to talk to our neighbors about the issue. The fact that we were able to collect 100 signatures in a short time demonstrates that interest.

Three members of the JPNC have been active participants in the Forest Hills Planning Initiative since the beginning, attending all of the large community meetings and a number of the working group meetings. We have been working “with the process that the Forest Hills Neighborhood associations have invested in with the BRA,” as Mr. Steinberg suggests. We just disagree with him about how well that process has worked. I believe the BRA is trying to be inclusive, but I think they have to try harder.

Mr. Steinberg asks whom the JPNC represents. Members of the JPNC
collected signatures from the community in order to appear on a ballot from which our neighbors could elect neighborhood councilors. The members of the Forest Hills Improvement Initiative working group did not go through any process to represent their neighbors in the planning initiative. JP residents can elect new neighborhood councilors if they disagree with us. What is my recourse if I disagree with the working group? Who are they accountable to?

I agree with Mr. Steinberg that the appropriate ratios and types of housing deserve greater discussion. The petition and the JPNC support of the petition was a way of ensuring that the issue of affordable housing got onto the agenda for that discussion.

Pam Bender
Jamaica Plain

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