Jamaica Plain, where you’re lucky to get a two-bedroom apartment for under $2,500, was once a neighborhood where homes were burned for insurance money. It was a neighborhood our state was ready to sacrifice for a highway.
So when JPNDC (Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation) was founded in 1977, our priorities were bringing back jobs, turning burned-out lots into homes, and making the neighborhood livable again.
Today, we face record wealth and income gaps, dramatically reduced economic mobility, and unaffordable housing. As across the country, lower-income people are on a treadmill, getting by at best rather than building security for their children.
With these threats in mind, plus a commitment to making the most of our strengths, JPNDC is completing a strategic plan for the next five years. Here are the main ways we’ll work for a more equitable community:
Embrace a citywide role. Most of the 500 families JPNDC serves each year with small business, early education or financial prosperity services live in other neighborhoods—often after having been displaced from JP. And the severity of the housing crisis means our search for new affordable housing opportunities can’t stop at the border. (See how we saved 150 affordable homes in Roxbury and Dorchester from conversion to market-rate.)
Aggressively pursue opportunities to keep JP inclusive. Just last month, as an example, JPNDC signed a Purchase & Sale agreement to acquire 3371 Washington Street— home to two businesses (El Embajador and DeChain Auto) and at very high risk of becoming yet another market-rate development. We hope to close this month and begin a community process to shape its redevelopment as 100 percent affordable housing and commercial space. JPNDC has been working with both businesses since they were first threatened with displacement, and is committed to doing so through the transition.
Do more to help low-income people beat the odds and enjoy long-term security. Right here at The Brewery Small Business Complex, which our founders had the vision to buy (for $340,000!) in 1983, we’ll create a Prosperity Center that will allow us to work with as many as 700 families a year to build credit, assets, and successful businesses. (See what we’re doing now in Economic Prosperity Services.)
Organize, organize, organize (and partner with great JP-based groups like City Life/Vida Urbana and the Mildred Hailey Tenants Organization). From supporting public housing tenants to coalition work for immigrants’ rights and economic justice, JPNDC puts leadership development and advocacy front and center.
Focus on racial equity. Wealth inequality in Boston is essentially a racial gap, with median net assets among White households at $247,000 and, for African-American and Dominican households respectively, at $8 and $0. JPNDC is connecting its real estate networks and small business expertise in help Contractors of Color to the wealth generated by the building boom. We want to make this pilot project a model for others to follow.
We invite all to learn more and be part of JPNDC’s work to build a more equitable Boston.
John Fitzgerald and Bashier Kayou are co-chairs of the JPNDC Board of Directors.