JPNC Housing Comm. discusses affordable housing programs and Arborway garage

The Housing and Development Committee (HDC) of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) held its regular monthly meeting this past Tuesday evening. Vice-chairperson Purple Reign presided over the meeting that was attended by a large number of committee and community members including Esther Belliard, Gert Thorn, Willie Mitchell,  Pam Bender, Carolyn Royce, Renee Stacey Welch, Allan Ihrer, Susan Cibulsky, Lorenzo Bartoloni, John Harding, Sarah Horsley, Sarah Freeman, and Kathy Brown.

Jamal Brinson, the Resident Services Representative at the Lena Park Development Corporation, was the guest speaker.

“We provide assistance for our residents and provide them with a voice to make sure they receive what they deserve,” said Brinson,

Betsy Lin, who works with Brinson, also spoke to the group about the services provided to residents by Lena Park, which has been serving the Boston community since 1968.

Brinson and Lin spoke of the lotteries that are available for the first 80 units (out of an eventual total of about 200 units) for affordable housing opportunities at the new housing development at The Preserve at Olmsted Green in Mattapan, which will provide housing for a wide range of individuals, from senior citizens to young adults who are emerging from foster care.

According to the Olmsted Green web site, “The Preserve at Olmsted Green is a one-of-a-kind, 42-acre landscaped community located just six miles to downtown Boston, which offers apartments for rent, homeownership opportunity, and a mix of smartly designed flats and townhomes with private backyards and lush landscapes. Its uniquely designed neighborhoods feature abundant greenspace, landscapes, and lawns. 63 of the 80 condominiums are designated as income-restricted and will be sold to first-time homebuyers making at or below 80% AMI, 100% AMI, or 120% AMI (Area Median Income).”

Brinson noted that 3000 applications already have been received for those lottery units.

Eric Brickley, a  Loan Officer with M&T Bank, spoke about the affordable housing loan programs that are available for prospective buyers of units. He discussed the concept of affordable lending with deed restrictions, which essentially ensures that affordable units will remain affordable for future buyers in line with the then-AMI and that buyers of the units are forbidden from renting them out.

Brickley also outlined the rather complicated income requirements for eligibility for the program which are based on Area Median Income (AMI), family size, and the zip code of the property. In addition, there is a wide range of programs available for prospective purchasers that can vary the size of down payments, eligibility for receiving grants, and obtaining below-market mortgage rates.

The members then discussed the MBTA Arborway Garage project. Royce presented an update from the most recent meeting between the Arborway Garage Subcommittee and T and city officials on January 25 at which the T defended its controversial plan to locate a parking lot for 150 cars for employees on the eight acres of land that had been designated for community development.

Royce said that T officials promised to hold a multitude of public meetings in the future to keep residents updated on the progress of the project. Royce noted that the design stage has reached the 15% mark and soon will reach the 30% mark.

Royce also highlighted that city and state officials and others made the point that the garage, which will house 200 of the T’s future electric bus fleet (the legislature has mandated that all of the T’s buses must be fully-electric by 2040), is viewed by many constituencies as a necessary part of environmental justice goals for the larger Boston community.

However, many of the committee members expressed their dissatisfaction with the T’s insistence on locating its employee parking lot on the eight acres that have been set aside for community development purposes.

“This eight acres of land was meant as impact mitigation,”  said Ihrer, who pointed out that the effective acreage for community development will be closer to 6.5 across. He went on to say, “Sticking 150 parking spaces in the middle of our much-needed development,” is not in keeping with the promises that had been made by T and city officials (the original Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Mayor Tom Menino and the T in 2001).

“They feel no sense of responsibility to the community,” said Thorn, echoing Ihrer’s comments. “This is not the way the system is supposed to work. We’re just powerless. They’ve already established a design in their minds and are proceeding full speed ahead.”

“The T is not negotiating with us,” added Bender. “They’re making their decisions on their own and then announcing them to us.”

Other speakers similarly took the T to task for reneging on the promise of the eight acres for community development.

The date for the next meeting of the Arborway Garage Sub-Committee is set for Monday, March 18, and the next meeting of the Housing and Development Committee is set for Tuesday, March 19.

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