JPNC: Short-Term Corporate Rentals at Serenity Appear to Violate City Agreement

Has the owner of the Serenity apartment complex on South Huntington Avenue violated its agreement with the city by striking a deal with a corporate housing company to lease 24 of the units? That is one of several questions the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) asked in a letter to the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) June 28.

The status of the 24 short-term rentals, as well as the developer’s compliance with its affordable housing commitments and promised community benefits, are chief issues about which the JPNC has requested updates from the BPDA.

The issue of the short-term corporate rentals was illuminated after a Boston Globe article earlier this week noted that Serenity’s owner, Cedar Valley Holding LLC, is leasing 24 apartments at the 105A South Huntington Ave. apartment building to Churchill Corporate Housing.

“The leasing of 24 units by the developer to Churchill appears to violate the June 2013 Memorandum, Developer Assurances Regarding Occupancy,” states the JPNC letter. That memorandum outlines that “the lessee must be a person living in the unit and may not sublet or assign the apartment. There will be only one lease per unit.” It also say lessees may not be full-time graduate students.

The JPNC letter asserts leasing Serenity units to Churchill “runs counter to the mayor’s goal of adding 53,000 new housing units to the city’s housing stock.”

The letter, signed by JPNC Chairman Kevin Moloney and addressed to BPDA Director Brian Golden, requests status compliance updates on other issues, too, such as the status of 42 affordable units that were to be built in Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain in lieu of placing affordable units on-site. According to a November 2015 city agreement with Serenity’s developer, there was to be “an interim milestone on or before certificate of occupancy date to identify the location of these units and to provide evidence of acquisition, site control, permits, and agreement.”

The JPNC is also seeking updates from the BPDA on a $200,000 developer contribution to install a new signal system for the South Huntington/Huntington intersection, the clearing of dead or sick trees and the addition of 90 new trees, and improvements to the existing bus stop and sidewalk.

The letter was also sent to Mayor Martin Walsh, state Rep. Liz Malia, state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and City Councilors Michelle Wu, Matt O’Malley, Michael Flaherty and Annissa Essaibi-George.

  • GoatWatch

    Because corporations are considered people under Citizens United, isn’t the lease following the letter, if not the spirit, of the law?

  • Eric Herot

    I’m not sure I understand the objection here. Short term housing is still housing. Preventing developers from leasing out new units to corporate rental agencies won’t make that demand go away, it will just shift it into existing rental housing, which would be worse because that housing tends to be more naturally affordable. The same goes for rules against undergraduates. They don’t just disappear. Instead they rent units in cheaper, older apartment buildings where families would normally be living.