Why Charlesview matters to all of Allston (Harvard and the rest of us)

The possibility that a 550-person housing project at Charlesview might become a 1000-person housing project on Western Ave will have a huge impact on the future of the neighborhood. Here is what Harvard researchers wrote recently:

Of all the elements that determine a neighborhood’s quality of living, homes are by far the most influential. The types and condition of a neighborhood’s homes – whether houses or apartments, owned or rented – determine whether the residents will live in comfort and safety. The value or change in value of an area’s housing directly influences the financial condition of its occupants by providing more or less expensive shelter and, in the case of homeowners, increasing or decreasing the investment in the home.1

Experts at Harvard and elsewhere agree that we should strive to reduce or eliminate segregation based on race or income. In Boston and across the country, policies are being created to encourage a mix of incomes in housing developments and neighborhoods. Examples include the Federal Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing (MTO) and HOPE VI programs. In this Harvard paper, researchers discuss the favorable results of the MTO program in Boston. Another Harvard paper addresses the complexities of housing policy and makes the case that mixed-income housing is not a "silver bullet".

What is clear is that thousands of new people will move to North Allston & North Brighton in the upcoming years and a new Charlesview development would be the first major housing development here in decades. It could significantly alter the demographics and appearance of the neighborhood. North Harvard Street could become a dividing line, with Harvard people isolating themselves to the east of the neighborhood in new enclaves.

Where the newcomers to our community will live and the type of housing that should be built are not simple questions. But they are very important ones. The housing goals in the North Allston Strategic Framework were a good start. Now we need Harvard, the City, the community, and others to begin serious planning to fulfill these goals before major development moves forward.

Harvard has the expertise to significantly contribute to a world-class housing plan for this community. Harvard claims to be interested in the success of Allston. Harvard says that housing policy is one of the most important factors in the success of a community. It is time for Harvard to follow up its talk about "partnerships" and "shared vision" with real action.

1 The Impact of Housing on Community: A Review of Scholarly Theories and Empirical Research Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University - Alexander von Hoffman, Eric S. Belsky, and Kwan Lee - March 2006

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