What type of housing would improve North Allston

While reading this story in today's Crimson about Harvard's plans for new housing in Barry's Corner (Barry's Corner Plans Worry Allston Residents) I thought back to the home-ownership post I wrote in 2008 regarding the ownership/rental mix for the new Charlesview housing.

During the public review of Charlesview the project was described as having apartments south of Western Ave and condo along Telford St on the north side of Western Ave. For many in the community who believe that more homeownership would be a good thing here, we looked forward to the construction of these condos.

But while construction of the apartments is moving ahead briskly, there is no activity relating to the construction of the condos which are now describes as being "Phase 2" of the project and, according to this Globe story, that "phase’s timing is market dependent" and who knows when or if that means it will be built.

So, getting back to Barry's Corner, the documents that I linked to in that 2008 post have been moved or deleted, and data from the 2010 Census is now available. 

But the story is still the same regarding two topics raised in the Crimson article - Allston has few families and few homeowners.

Allston: 13% owner-occupied housing units. Households with individuals under 18 years = 9%
Jamaica Plain: 44% owner occupied.  Households with individuals under 18 years = 23%
South Boston: 40% owner occupied.  Households with individuals under 18 years = 17%
Roxbury: 20% owner occupied. Households with individuals under 18 years = 35%
South End: 39% owner occupied. Households with individuals under 18 years = 15% 

Strong and consistent evidence indicates that homeowners are more likely to: a) be satisfied with their homes and neighborhoods; b) participate in voluntary and political activities; and c) stay in their homes longer, contributing to neighborhood stability. 
Building small apartments in Barry's Corner will maximize Harvard's profit and will also move Allston in the wrong direction - further exacerbating our lack of families and homeowners.

Hopefully it will be possible to balance Harvard's goals for a money-making development of Barry's Corner with the type of housing that will also advance the housing and social goals of Allston.


  1. Young people who are thinking of settling down and starting families aren't leaving Allston because of lack of space to live. They are leaving because of:

    a) scummy landlords and worse management companies that buy up as much housing stock as possible, cram it with kids and let it completly fall apart, devaluing that home and ajacant properties and

    b) the local political climate that dismisses any innovation, new (especially late night) buisnesses, tall buildings, and densly settled populations.

    Just because people are thinking of starting a family doesn't mean they want some creepy utopian 50' grass and tree land around each house. Newton and Arlington exist for this purpose. Allston is desirable because of its diverse population, restuarants, location, and yes (gasp) late night options. These are the strengths that need to be played on.

    The people who spend all their time battling local buisness owners (who suppost the community, etc) who god forbid want to stay open an hour later should instead be concentrating on getting Alpha management and the like to clean up their acts, or perhaps help budding families get financing to buy and fix up these crapholes. Getting some attention put into the crime rate that's spiking around upper Linden street before its too late wouldn't be a bad concentration either.

  2. Dave - All the points you make are good ones, though I don't think issues with Linden Street and absentee landlords necessarily contradict what I wrote about Barry's Corner.

    Who suggested that new housing in Barry's Corner should have 50' of grass and tree around each house.

    Will people starting families want to live in or near Barry's Corner if it ends up full of bars and nightclubs open till 2AM? Most parents I know aren't looking for pizza at 3AM, and it wasn't so much fun walking my kids to school recently when we passed a pile of vomit on the sidewalk.

  3. Anonymous9:40 AM

    Sadly, the recent great recession has also demonstrated that many overleveraged homeowners are trapped in overvalued homes. When they, a spouse or a partner loses a job, they cannnot relocate because their mortgage is under water. Until this housing liquidity crisis is resolved many folks may opt to rent, which gives them the flexibilty to move.

    Also, do not ignore the shift away from the post-WW II Ozzie and Harriet family demographic model that spurred the rise of homeownership in this country. The two-parent household with young children is no longer the norm in most cities, not just in Allston. And despite rumors to the contrary, perhaps not everyone needs to own a home, I am a lifelong renter, registered and active voter, active in numerous community service activities, and someoone who shops at local businesses. I live next door to some lifelong homeowners whose homes are ill-kept. Be careful of stereotyping, please. Neither homeowners nor renters are perfect neighbors or imperfect villians.

    1. You are right. None of us are perfect.

      Homeownership/rental status does not make anyone a villain.

      I do not think Harvard should build only condos. I do not think Harvard should build only apartments (which seems to be Harvard's current plan). My question is "What is the right balance?". 90% apartments? 50% apartments? What do you think?

      I also understand the decline of "the shift away from the post-WW II Ozzie and Harriet family demographic model" as mentioned by many writers including David Brooks in his column yesterday.
      Again, I am not suggesting that Harvard build only 3 & 4 BR units. But there are still some families out there with 4 or 5 people, and if Harvard builds only 1 and 2 BR market-rate units (as their consultant indicated last week) then that also would be creating an imbalance in who can live here.