Update: Subletting at Serenity Apartments Does Not Violate City Agreement

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The final cooperation agreement between the city and the developer of the Serenity apartments complex on South Huntington Avenue does not include language from an earlier draft that prohibited the subletting of units.

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) sent a letter to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) in June asking whether Cedar Valley Holding LLC, the developer of Serenity, had violated its agreement with the city by subletting 24 apartments to a corporate rental company. In the letter, the council quoted a June 2013 memorandum that 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 said lessees may not be full-time graduate students.

But that language does not appear in the final agreement, which makes no mention of subletting units at the 105A South Huntington Ave. complex. As such, it appears the developer's short-term corporate leasing arrangement with Churchill Corporate Housing is in compliance with the agreement.

"For some reason, either by inattention or design, the BRA failed to include the relevant language in the cooperation agreement, entered into more than a year later (July 2014)," wrote JPNC Chairman Kevin Moloney to Jamaica Plain News. (The BPDA was previously known as the BRA.)

The BPDA confirmed to Jamaica Plain News that the subletting language is not included in the final agreement but did not explain why.

Churchill Living, which provides furnished apartments throughout the US and has other apartments in the Boston area, provided the following statement to Jamaica Plain News:

"When leasing units in a building, such as the 24 units in question at the Serenity Apartment Complex on South Huntington Avenue, we abide by all local ordinances and restrictions. We are, in fact, no different from any other tenant and must rely upon the building owner, in this case Cedar Valley Holding, LLC, to be aware of and in compliance with local ordinances and restrictions. Should laws pertaining to tenants change, we will be more than willing to follow any new regulations. Churchill Living is proud of our contributions to the greater Boston area and look forward to continuing to serve residents and travelers in the future."

The JPNC's letter also addressed several other issues with the complex, asserting that leasing units to Churchill “runs counter to the mayor’s goal of adding 53,000 new housing units to the city’s housing stock.”

Bonnie McGilpin, spokesperson for the BPDA, responded that the city "is currently coordinating resources and efforts across departments to better define and analyze the short-term rental housing industry in Boston in order to protect our long term housing stock." At the same time, she added, "the city recognizes corporate housing models serve many different visitors and residents of Boston that include families of patients at our hospitals, temporary employees at our universities, and people working in the arts and entertainment industry."

The JPNC letter also requested a status update on 42 affordable units to be built in Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain in lieu of placing affordable units on-site, per the city agreement. McGilpin said the BPDA has been working with the development team to identify a location in Mission Hill or Jamaica Plain for these units.

"If the developer is unable to find an off-site location, the developer would still be required to make an $8.4 million payment to the Inclusionary Development Policy Fund," McGilpin said. "It is the BPDA’s goal that an off-site location is secured soon, so that the affordable housing resources from this project remain within Jamaica Plain or Mission Hill."

The JPNC also requested updates on a $200,000 developer contribution to install a new signal system at 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.

McGilpin said the $200,000 is due when the certificate of occupancy is issued. At this time, the developer has only pulled a temporary certificate of occupancy. The BPDA certifies that the developer is in compliance with all mitigations prior to the issuance of the certification of completion. McGilpin did not provide updates on the trees or the bus stop and sidewalk improvements.