State of JP outcomes focus on housing affordability

This year’s State of our Neighborhood (SOON), held on Feb. 26 at the Kennedy Elementary School, generated new commitments from community members to improve JP’s housing problems through the lens of racial equity.

According to Juan Gonzalez and Giovanny Valencia, employees at the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and members of the SOON organizing committee, the event focused on seven main issues.

Those include: creating a planning initiative for the Egleston/Washington/Forest Hills corridor; building the permanent Arborway bus yard; supporting just-cause evictions ordinances; adopting the Boston median income as an affordable housing benchmark over the higher regional median income; and adopting citywide guidelines for higher percentages of affordably priced units in large real estate projects.

“I’m glad JP is moving forward. JP is a leader in Boston for advocacy in the community,” Valencia said. “I’m glad these organizations are working together and I hope we can have some clear changes this year.”

“The good thing is, there is a clear vision of where we need to go, and we’re lucky that our elected officials are really supportive, and sometimes, champions, leading these processes in that state house,” Gonzales said.

And “things are really moving in different areas,” Gonzales told the Gazette last week.

The BRA is currently in the early stages of developing a master plan for the Washington Street corridor. A community site walk and meeting are scheduled for March 31. Members of the SOON committee will be in attendance.

Meanwhile, Gonzales admitted that getting construction started on the MBTA Arborway yard will be very challenging, considering the financial constraints the T is currently under.

“We were thinking of connecting this to the corridor, to highlight the bus yard as a priority for the community. It needs to be resolved,” Gonzales said.

As for supporting just-cause evictions—as opposed to no-fault evictions—City Life/Vida Urbana and other supporters plan to ask for support at an April 7 City Council hearing.

The city’s guideline for developers of including 15 percent of any new housing units as affordably priced, should be “reviewed and modified” to a higher standard of 25 percent, Gonzales said.

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Zoning Committee suggests that 25 percent of all new units of housing in JP meet affordability criteria. It has been using that guideline for years.

“The neighborhood council has been really, really strong in advocating for that policy,” Gonzalez said.

Other initiatives include supporting other Community Development Corporations (CDC) around the state, to bolster support for future pieces of legislation beneficial to JP.

The event was organized by a committee of local organizations that included the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition, JPNDC, Egleston Square Main Streets, Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center and Jamaica Plain Forum. The Gazette was a co-sponsor of the event.

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