City Pilot Program to Prevent Displacement Launched in Jamaica Plain

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A new city program designed to help residents to remain in their neighborhoods and avoid displacement will be piloted in Jamaica Plain.

The city’s pilot Diversity Preservation Policy will give preference in accessing new affordable units to current residents of communities where tenants are at high risk of displacement.

The pilot program is in response to concerns about displacement in Boston’s neighborhoods. The first test site will be at 52 Montebello Road, a formerly blighted, six-unit building, which was foreclosed upon and is now owned by the city. Construction will start immediately and is expected to be completed in the the winter of 2017.

The development will consist of six units of affordable rental housing, and all of the units will be deed-restricted in perpetuity. The units will be available to households making no more than 60 percent of Boston metro area median income (about $53,000 for 3-person household). Urban Edge will have long-term ownership and operation responsibilities for the property.

“I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken and the progress we’ve made to stop the displacement of our residents in our culturally diverse neighborhoods,” said Mayor Martin Walsh via a press release. “We want to make sure Boston is a city that any resident can afford to live in, and this new pilot program will help preserve housing diversity in our neighborhoods.”

This pilot program will run until the end of 2017, and the city will be evaluating the policy throughout the year and after each completed project.

The city decided to launch the program in Jamaica Plain due to strong community interest for affordable housing.

The city conveyed the land to developers, 3190 Washington, LLC, on June 30, 2016. Construction is expected to begin immediately and be completed during winter 2017.

Other developments for the pilot program will be located in neighborhoods where more than 30 percent of households are low-income and severely rent burdened, thus being threatened by displacement. “Severely rent burdened” means a household would be paying more than 50 percent of its household income for rent. The program will be applied to the initial rent or sale of up to 50 percent of the units in a development.

A household’s eligibility for preference under the policy depends on two criteria: where a potential applicant lives, and their household income and specific characteristics.

In developments fewer than 20 units preference will be given to residents living within a quarter-mile. For developments of 20 to 50 units preference will be given to residents within a half-mile. In larger developments of 50 units or more preference will be given to households currently residing within a three-quarter mile.

To qualify for preference, households also must be either:

  • Rent-burdened and not living in a subsidized housing unit;
  • Elderly homeowners, aged 62 and older, with household income below 80 percent of the area median income (AMI);
  • Renters who have a disability and a household income below 100 percent of AMI;
  • A renter household with income below 80 percent of AMI, with children who are enrolled in a Boston school.

The program is a collaboration between Boston’s Office of Fair Housing and Equity and the Department of Neighborhood Development. The two departments will review demographics of neighborhoods and developments where the preference will be applied to ensure the preference continues to maintain racial diversity.