More and Better Low Income Housing is on the Way

Progress on the project to construct 27 new affordable apartments on Maverick Street for low-income families is moving along with the shell of the building already completed.

MassHousing has approved $2.2 million in loans for the Greenway Apartments in East Boston being developed by the East Boston Community Development Corporation (EBCDC). Last year the CDC razed two vacant buildings at 170 and 172 Maverick Street and began construction on the 27 affordable rental units in a low-rise, energy efficient building.

Of the 27 apartments, 21 will be two-bedroom units and 6 will be three-bedroom units, all of which will remain affordable in perpetuity.

The three-bedroom units will be subsidized with tenants paying 30 percent of their income for rent. The two bedroom units will be rented at an affordable rate of $976 a month compared to an estimated market rate of  $1,800 a month for two-bedroom apartments in the area.

The MassHousing financing involves a $1.2 million permanent loan and a $1 million Priority Development Fund loan.  Bank of America is also providing a $5.4 million construction loan.    The project contractor will be Landmark Structures Corporation of Woburn and the architect is Michael A.  Interbartolo Jr. of East Boston.

The management agent will be Metro Management, a subsidiary of East Boston Community Development Corporation. Construction is expected to be completed by the spring of this year.

CDC President Al Caldarelli has said the strength of our community has always been the hard-working families who contribute to our neighborhoods and this development will provide a stable environment for those families.

MassHousing has provided more than $60 million in financing for more than 1,600 units of affordable housing in East Boston including the 396-unit Maverick Landing, the 74-unit Barnes School Elderly Housing and the 380-unit Shore Plaza East.

Both the Zoning Board of Appeals and Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) voted unanimously in support of a slightly scaled down version of the project because it will add more affordability for Eastie residents during these tough economic times.

The CDC’s original plan was to construct a 30 unit, five story building on the half acre site but after several community meetings decided to reduce the number of units to 27 and the height of the building to three stories.

Back in October 2008, the Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association (JPNA) held the first in a series of meetings concerning the project, its size and the impacts it might have on neighbors.

While the plans were in its infancy, many in attendance felt the share size and scope of the project was a little too much on a parcel that borders residences and the Greenway Park.

However, some were confused at some of the photographs presented by the CDC, which showed a yellow outline of the property. Some thought the building would encompass the entire half-acre parcel.

In fact, the scaled down version of the building accepted by the BRA takes up only about half of the 23,000 sq. ft. footprint shown in area photos. The rest, explained CDC Consultant John Vitagliano, will be tree plantings and other landscaping.

Vitagliano and Caldarelli believe the project will have a positive impact on the neighborhood by taking a parcel of land that is reminiscent of 1970s urban decay and turning it into an attractively landscaped building.

“Right now that stretch of the Greenway is desolate and this building will bring some activity to the area,” said Vitagliano. “One good thing is that it will provide a measure of indirect light to the Greenway during the night hours–providing an additional level of safety and security to a dark section of the park.”

Another concern the project invoked was the number of affordable housing units.

While the CDC has been praised for its work at Maverick Gardens and the former Barnes School, which the CDC turned into affordable elderly housing, members of the JPNA were a little wary of putting more affordable housing in a neighborhood that some feel is already overburdened with affordability. Currently, about 16 percent of Eastie is affordable housing or four percent higher than the city average of 12 percent.

Caldarelli took some flak for insinuating that the units would be for ‘East Boston families and their children who want to stay in the neighborhood’. Under fair housing laws, if the project was accepted and built as affordable rental housing, the CDC, by law, would have to hold a lottery for the units and would be unable to guarantee that the families would be Eastie based families.

However, the demand in Eastie is so great Caldarelli believes that the share number of people applying from Eastie would almost guarantee that a majority of the apartments would be occupied by Eastie residents in need of affordable housing.

CDC run properties in Eastie has had the tendency to follow this trend. Currently longtime Eastie residents occupy 90 percent of CDC run units.

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