Affordable housing, eviction, and CPA discussed during housing meeting

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) held a State of Our Neighborhood pre-meeting on March 3 at the Ana M. Cole Community Center to discuss housing in the neighborhood and city. About 20 people attended the meeting.

A panel discussed three housing initiatives to tackle the current housing crisis in Jamaica Plain and Boston: a potential “just cause” eviction law in Massachusetts, affordable housing in developments, and the Community Preservation Act (CPA).

The pre-meeting is one of several that are being held before the State of Our Neighborhood meeting on April 7.

The “just cause” eviction law would put a stop to evicting tenants without any legitimate cause.

“What we’re proposing is if the owner does not live in the building and owns more than five or six units, then they should not be able to evict their tenants no fault,” said Maria Christina Blanco from City Life/Vida Urbana.

Blanco also said that many times evictions occur because a landlord is trying to vacate an entire building for renovation and make more money afterwards. She said the new law is meant to protect all tenants, including section 8 voucher holders, from being unfairly evicted.

“That is something that has been destabilizing our neighborhood and other neighborhoods,” Blanco said about evictions.

The City’s affordable-housing policy currently outlines that developers need to build 13 percent of their units as affordable on the property they are developing, or 18 percent off-site, or pay a sum to the City to make up for not building affordable housing at all. The policy only applies to developments that need zoning relief. The goal of the JPNDC is to increase the percentage of affordable housing to 25 percent.

Sarah Horsley of Boston Tenant Coalition said that the coalition was “really disappointed that they weren’t able to get an increase in the on-site units because that’s still at 13 percent.”

The JPNDC was also disappointed with the new affordable-housing policy, as JPNDC spokesperson Sally Swenson previously told the Gazette that, “We support the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s policy that 25 percent of new units in large developments should be affordable. We believe the City should have substantially increased the on-site requirement above 13 percent in order to meet the tremendous need for affordable housing in this community.”

The Community Preservation Act, as presented by Kathy Brown, coordinator of Boston Tenant Coalition and JP resident, is currently being campaigned to be put as a city referendum on the November 2016 ballot. The law would allow Boston to raise funds for housing, parks and open space, and historical preservation through a surcharge tax. Ten percent of the funds would be donated to each of those causes. A commission of eight or nine board members appointed by the mayor would decide what portion of the remaining 70 percent of funds to disburse among those three causes.

The tax could raise $13 million annually, in addition to funding that Boston would receive through a state match. Low- and moderate-income seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income residents would be exempt from the tax. The tax would be calculated through a complex formula: It is a 1 percent tax on the cost of a property bill after $100,000 of value has been subtracted and the residential exemption applied, if applicable. That means an owner who has a property assessed at $400,000 would see an increase in the property bill of about $13. It is not a 1 percent increase in the property tax.

The revenue collected from the CPA tax could be used to create or preserve housing, according to Brown.

“We desperately need this money to solve the housing crisis,” Brown said.

Across the state, 160 towns have enacted the tax in their municipalities, including Cambridge and Somerville. Seventy-eight percent of Cambridge’s CPA money goes to housing. The state has raised $1.4 billion statewide, according to Brown.

“If you invest in this, you’re investing in your community,” said Sebastian Zapata, member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council.

For more information about the CPA or any of the initiatives of the JPNDC, contact Juan Gonzalez at [email protected]

[This article has been updated to correctly reflect the Community Preservation Act.]

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