The Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) met virtually on October 4, where members had a discussion about the Forbes Building, and heard from representatives of owner Paul Clayton, as well as current tenants and Michael Kane, Executive Director of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants.
Consultant Dot Joyce, as well as Bill Reed of “regenerative development” company Regenesis Group and attorney Jeffrey Sacks represented Paul Clayton
The Forbes Building has been at the forefront of conversation in the neighborhood recently, as the affordable units in the building are at risk of turning market rate.
Sacks presented what the team’s plans are for the Forbes Building, and included a brief history of the building. According to a slide presented, “since 1976, Forbes has served the Jamaica Plain Community, as a well-run affordable apartment building under the Massachusetts 13A program.”
The building has 147 apartments, 25 percent of which serve “very low income” residents, 50 percent serve low and moderate income residents, and 25 percent are market rate units.
In 2019, the Massachusetts 13A program ended, but residents who were part of that program have been covered under the Massachusetts 40T program.
“In 2018 Forbes Management signaled interest in another 40-year long term preservation deal,” the slide reads. “Work began in earnest to create a plan to improve the property for residents with the ideals of environment & the human flourishing in mind.” The team stated that they had worked to create a new 40 year deal, but earlier this year, the “Forbes Preservation financing plan became obsolete,” according to the slide.
“What we’re trying to do now is work with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD),” Sacks said, to “help all residents with Area Median Income of below 80 percent.”
He said that the purpose of creating this “tenant protection plan” is to “create time” to work on what it takes to create a new long-term deal.
Reed said that “our work is simply to invite invested community members to find opportunities to connect and operate.” Regenesis has met with various residents, businesses, and other members of the community about plans for the building and “how do we create life, how do we actually amplify life?”
Dot Joyce said that different residents are “covered under different programs,” and while some are covered under the 40T program, “some also have protections under a state program—they will remain, they have remained, they will continue at this point,” she said. “I believe we have about 88 people who meet the 60 percent or below AMI.”
Sacks added that about 116 of the 147 units are affordable, and “we’ve made a proposal” to preserve the affordability of the units. However, Sacks said that Clayton has not yet committed to a “long term preservation plan to protect those units for future residents.”
Come March, the “rest of the units in the building could go to market rent if the owner chose to do that,” he said. “The owner does not want to do that,” and “has requested additional subsidies from the DHCD.”
There was a question about why Paul Clayton has not met with the community at large about this issue.
“I think that’s more me than it is him,” Joyce said. “I think Paul has a very wonderful way of thinking; I think his flourishing thoughts get misconstrued.” She said that in meetings like this where there is limited time, “there’s sometimes a disconnect.”
The team said they have been generally working directly with the agencies up to this point, but JPA member Kevin Moloney said that “unless you get the elected officials…actively involved, the bureaucrats will go about their business and do whatever they want.”
Franklyn Salimbene concurred. He asked the team why they had not spoken with Rep. Nika Elugardo, who was in attendance at this meeting and had expressed interest in reaching out to the team to see how she can help.
She said that she had been planning to reach out and had not yet done so, so “I’ll share responsibility for that,” she said, but suggested that they “meet and talk this week” as she has “strong relationships” with state housing agencies.
Michael Kane and a couple of residents then spoke about the situation from their point of view.
He said that “there’s a number of really infeasible proposals to completely rebuild the building.” He continued, “a lot of these things; they might be nice ideas, but they would also be very expensive and difficult to design in that space.”
He said that the tenants would like Clayton to sign long term contracts that the “state would be willing to offer.” He said that Clayton could pursue his proposals after the long term affordability is taken care of.
Beatrice Greene said that “it’s very stressful for the people in the building not knowing what’s going to be happening next.”
David Nollman, a resident of the Forbes Building, said that the “tenants want long-term affordability. “If we could be assured of that long-term affordability, that would take care of a great deal of what the issues are.”
Speaking to the tenants, Sacks said that “Mr. Clayton is committed to a tenant protection plan which would permanently protect all of our tenancies for as long as you want to life in the building. That’s what we asked the state for.”
He said that no contract for a long term deal is on the table right now. “We want to get a tenant protection plan in place to create a feasible long term protection plan,” Sacks said.
“There’s a distinction between tenant-based assistance and project-based assistance,” Kane said.
After further discussion, JPA Chair Rosemary Jones asked both sides if there would be interest in having a meeting solely dedicated to this issue, as there were other things on the JPA agenda for the evening.
Joyce said that if there was an opportunity for a meeting where there are “groups where we can have a complete dialogue” and “share in a complete format that allows people to digest information…I think we would be very willing and happy to do that. In a large summit setting, things become a little more of a debate rather than a sharing of ideas an information.”
Kane said “we’re happy to meet,” adding that “we have proposed a summit meeting of the state, city, owner, tenants association, and other interested parties.”
JPA member David Moir said that “where you have a complex matter like this, we have regularly turned to a task force type thing,” but Kevin Moloney said he disagreed with that idea.
JPA member Franklyn Salimbene agreed with Joyce that “having a very large group meeting is not going to be productive.”
No official further meeting of all parties was agreed upon at this JPA meeting, but REp. Elugardo stated in the chat that she will be pursuing a meeting with Clayton’s team.