Facts about Boston's neighborhood housing trust

There has been a lot of discussion and questions recently about Boston's neighborhood housing trust and the housing-related community benefits that will come from Harvard's Science Complex project. Harvard writes in its DPIR:

In connection with the Science Complex project, Harvard's commitment to housing will be fulfilled directly by a contribution to the Neighborhood Housing Trust Fund through the City’s linkage requirement, which for the Project is proposed to total $3.8 million based on the current square footage of the Science Complex of approximately 589,000 gross square feet.

To learn more about the Neighborhood Housing Trust, this 2004 report by the City of Boston gives a very readable overview of the program and its accomplishments. It tells us that "Since its inception, the Neighborhood Housing Trust has committed $81,458,485 in linkage funds. These funds have helped create or preserve 6,159 affordable housing units in 115 development projects throughout the City of Boston."

But only a small fraction of this money goes to our neighborhood. Allston/Brighton's 70,000 residents makes us 12% of the population of the City, but much less than 12% of the linkage funds are spent here. The report lists the following Allston/Brighton projects:

Total Units Affordable Units
Bridge Over Troubled Waters $144,820 6 6
30 Washington St. $750,000 42 42
St. John of God $625,000 102 69
33 Everett Street/Legal Seafoods Brighton $500,000 50 50
Crittenton Hastings House Brighton $750,000 28 28
TOTAL $2,769,820 228 195
% of Citywide Total 3.4% 6.3%

But Harvard's linkage payments don't have to be spread throughout the City with only a small fraction coming back to the neighborhood most directly impacted by Harvard's expansion. The City's report explains that there are two options for meeting a project's housing-related linkage obligation. The first option is for the developer to make a payment to the City of $7.18 for every square foot of gross floor space in the project. This is the option that Harvard has proposed using.

Here is the other option:
"As an alternative to direct payments, developers may fulfill their linkage obligation by opting to be directly involved in housing creation. This option requires developers to create or assist in the creation of housing units for low- and moderate-income residents of the city. The cost of this housing creation option must be equivalent to the housing payment the developer would have made."
So Harvard could spend all of its $3.8 million right here in our neighborhood! What great news! Now the not-so-great news. For some reason, Harvard is not proposing to do this. Apparently, Harvard would rather have this money spent on housing projects elsewhere in the City. Why would that be?

Sheila Dillon of the BRA will be at tonight's Harvard Allston Task Force meeting (6:30 at the Honan Library) to tell us more about the housing linkage program, so maybe these questions can be answered there.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:41 PM

    What would you do about another major project that will break ground around August of 2008. That is going to be the new Charlesview at Brighton mills and it will have at least 282 new units for the coummunity.