The Role of Activism in Promoting Affordable Community Development
Founded by a group of Puerto Rican activists in 1968, IBA grew from efforts to fight displacement amidst gentrification in the South End. Through widespread civic engagement, we won the right to keep our neighborhood and build our homes, and have been able to uphold our vibrant culture in the community. With our history steeped in advocating for low-income families, we believe that activism is a critical component of building safer, healthier and more inclusive communities. As we continue to preserve affordability for low-income minority residents in Boston, it is interesting to see what others are doing around the area today to preserve affordable housing.
Here are a few examples of what Greater Boston communities are doing to maintain a voice in their changing neighborhoods.
- Located at the heart of Downtown Boston, Chinatown has experienced significant luxury residential development in recent years, increasing the cost of living for many low-income residents. In order to keep the neighborhood’s working class, immigrant population a part of the community, residents have formed the Chinatown Community Land Trust, with aims of replicating a land trust model successfully implemented by Dudley Neighbors Inc. As a trust, the Chinatown Community Land Trust intends to purchase property that would be converted into affordable home ownership or rental opportunities, which would retain affordable conditions regardless of future land transfers that may take place. Currently, the Trust is considering placing a bid for Mass Pike Towers, a project that would develop 200 low-income housing units.
- Densely populated with over 80,000 residents, Somerville’s rental costs have skyrocketed due to high demand, increasing 20 percent in just five years. To tamper this increase in housing costs, the Somerville Board of Aldermen enacted a mandate requiring new developments to lease 20 percent of units at affordable rates. For example, Union Square group Union United is asking that 40 percent of units in a 2.3 million square foot mixed-use city project under development by US2, be designated as permanently affordable. Although the project has not yet been finalized, Union United’s effort reflects the importance of promoting affordability early in the planning process.
- On March 1, members of Keep it 100 Real for Affordable Housing and Racial Justice – an activist group fighting to preserve affordable housing in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and Egleston – held an overnight sit-in at City Hall in support of additional low-income housing for the city’s community development proposal, PLAN: JP/Rox. The group presented three solutions to Boston’s Chief of Economic Development John Barros, which included redefining 250 market-rate apartment units as affordable; lowering affordable housing income levels to bolster housing opportunities for households earning less than $35,000; and raising the percentage of affordable units from 36 to 55 percent. Although the proposal was approved by the Boston Planning & Development Agency, the peaceful presentation of unique, community-specific solutions is a necessary means of activating important dialogue.
With many Greater Boston residents fearing displacement, activism provides a channel through which community members can express their most pressing concerns and the solutions they feel will preserve the essence of their evolving neighborhoods. At IBA, we will continue to vocalize support for and participate in the formation of policies that preserve accessibility for our city’s most vulnerable populations and provide services that meet their everyday needs.
We are proud to be working to develop housing opportunities for low-income households and minority residents in Boston. For more information on how you can support IBA, please visit our page: http://www.ibaboston.org/donate/