Advocacy & Civic Engagement
Homes We Can Afford Campaign
Homes We Can Afford is a new initiative launched by Allston Brighton CDC’s Affordable Housing Action Committee to increase visibility about how housing affects the diverse communities that make up Allston Brighton. As the city of Boston’s population grows larger, housing has become more of an issue for many residents throughout the city. The goal of this campaign is to raise awareness of the overall housing crisis in the Allston Brighton community. If you would like to share your story as part of the Homes We Can Afford Campaign, please email Jason Desrosier, Manager of Community Action, at [email protected] with “Homes We Can Afford” in the subject line.
Edna de Paula
My name is Edna de Paula. I was an Allston-Brighton resident for 26 years. I raised two daughters there as a single mother, and we loved the family friendly neighborhood. Even though we were in the city, there were always schools, parks, bakeries, libraries, churches and a true sense of community. We were all involved in community service and volunteering to make our community better. As years went by, rent began to rise and rise and more and more families had to leave the neighborhood. Some families had been there for decades. We began to see more big businesses and development come in that didn’t reflect the need and profile of the community. Part of my life history is in Allston-Brighton, and it was always a dream to buy our own house there, but I can’t afford it. And my daughter’s and their friends who grew up in the community can’t afford it either. I am hardworking, I love Allston-Brighton, and I dedicated so many years to the community, but I had to move. I can’t afford the sky-high rents, much less the mortgage. A community should always be growing and adapting but not to the extent that its residents have to leave it. If that happens, who is the change for? Who does it benefit?
I’ve lived in Allston-Brighton for 10 years and have watched the neighborhood change over time. Friends who once lived in the neighborhood keep moving away from Boston, because they can no longer afford to live here. For artists and musicians, Allston has been welcoming for decades and provided affordable housing near workspace and performance space, but this has slowly changed. Once affordable live/work buildings have been torn down and replaced with market-rate housing outside of the reach of the majority of Allston-Brighton residents.
I think Allston-Brighton’s biggest challenge with affordable housing is its supply. There simply aren’t enough units that the majority of our neighborhood would consider affordable. Even units built under the city’s inclusionary development policy are out of reach to many in the artist community here. I consider myself lucky since I was able to move into one of these city-deemed affordable units, but for years, I worked two, sometimes three, jobs to be able to afford it still. We need to put pressure on developers and city agencies to redefine affordable not based on a federal or state mandate, but on what is needed most in our city. Affordable for myself is very different from affordable to the thousands of service workers who call Allston-Brighton home. Everyone has a right to safe, affordable housing, and when I advocate for more affordable housing in buildings, I think of these folks in my neighborhood.
The city’s inclusionary development policy is not perfect, but it is currently under review to better fit the city’s needs. Its advantages include controlled rent that won’t increase drastically each year. It helps ease my anxiety of a sudden rent change, so I can be better prepared financially when it does increase slightly. I can save for emergencies or even someday maybe, purchasing a house or condo of my own. I want all of my community to have this safety net, and I’ll continue to fight for it for them.
Photography by: edwardboches.com
For the past few years, Boston and immediately surrounding communities have been beset by rising rents, rising housing prices and rapid gentrification. At the same time, many parts of Boston have felt the pressure of increasing density and congestion and a continuous stream of new development proposals in neighborhoods.
My response to these related problems has been to push for zoning law changes that would encourage more communities to shoulder their share of housing development, especially affordable housing development. The legislature did pass a landmark bill addressing this concern in December. Additionally, I have been centrally focused on improving public transportation to reduce congestion.
And then COVID hit. I believe that COVID has fundamentally changed the housing market in the core of Boston, with rents softening up and the pressure of gentrification diminishing or reversing. The new challenge has been to make sure that the unemployed have the necessary resources to stay in their homes. They may need assistance even if they receive rent concessions from their landlords.
It remains to be seen how markets will respond post-COVID, whenever that is, but I personally believe that we will be in a new normal in which the concerns about rising rents and congestion are no longer central.
The main challenge in the coming decade is likely to be to make sure that urban jobs for low and moderate income people are preserved or transformed in a positive way.
Photo by: edwardboches.com
What’s your relationship to Allston-Brighton?
My name is Oscar Lopez and I am a lifelong resident/ renter of Allston-Brighton and a first-generation Guatemalan American. I am one of 6 and my parents who work blue-collar jobs (Truck Driver & Janitor) were able to put us through Boston Public Schools and university. Through ABCDC housing my family was able to stay in Allston-Brighton for the past 30 plus years.
How has Allston-Brighton changed over the years?
I think no matter where you live change within a community is inevitable. Allston-Brighton I feel has seen significant change with the amount of development introduce within the last 5 years. At the end of the day, people are not able to stay long-term in the neighborhood. The cost of living has only grown and shows no sign of slowing down. So a lot of the neighborhood character is losing a lot of luster, because the people who made it so great are being forced to move.
What is Allston-Brighton’s biggest challenge with affordable housing?
It’s hard to pinpoint one specific challenge when talking about affordable housing in Allston-Brighton; What is deemed affordable is part of the problem, 70% AMI is still not within the reach of most renters. Even with all the development being built within Allston-Brighton most if not all are being built towards luxury housing. When “work-force” housing is being used to describe new developments I would think that encompasses gig workers (bartenders, waiters, Artists, etc.) a lot of the new development seems geared towards individuals who are making 60k and up.
What would/does an affordable home mean for you?
Affordable housing should be within the means of every individual that lives and works within that community. From those that work at Tech start-ups to those who work at the local Supermarket. It makes the community stronger and more vibrant and is something not only Allston-Brighton should strive for but the City of Boston.
How would your opportunities/quality of life change if you didn’t have to worry about rent going up?
The very fact of not having to spend half my paycheck towards housing would help with my savings, my overall ability to go out more than once a month, and having more capital to shop within the neighborhood. I could envision saving enough to maybe one day buy property within Allston-Brighton.
Photo by: edwardboches.com
1.Relationship to Allston/Brighton:
As the Director for Charlesview, Inc. my relationship to the community is varied. First, I represent the needs and interests of 240 households residing at Charlesview. Second, I represent Charlesview, Inc. and its mission to advance the well-being of individuals and families and promote the diversity and vibrancy of the community through our housing, program collaborations at our community center and funding organizations in the community through our charitable fund. I participate in a number of steering committees, task forces and Impact Advisory Groups to promote diversity, affordable housing and responsible transportation planning.
2. How has Allston/Brighton Changed:
A/B is feeling the effects of rampant and unplanned market rate and commercial development by institutional neighbors and for-profit developers. This development has priced out many working class individuals and families who either can’t afford the units being developed or can’t find right sized units to fit their family needs. We are losing families who might put down roots in the community. This loss will impact our schools and deplete the number of people who will engage in community dialogue and volunteerism.
Transportation and equitable transportation options are impacted by this development and there is little forward thinking to address the concerns of car traffic and multi-modal transportation. The Pandemic has exacerbated the economic and racial inequalities felt by many of our neighbors including food insecurity, housing insecurity, and healthcare access. I could go on and on but will stop there….
3. Challenges with housing affordability:
There is no opportunity for new affordable housing development as land and property has been scooped up by institutional neighbors and for-profit developers. The developers have the City’s support is building the smallest percentage of Inclusionary units as possible at 70% of the AMI, effectively pricing out most A/B residents. The second part of the challenge is convincing the institutions to give up some of their land for affordable/mixed income developments and convincing the for-profit developers to partner for increased affordability in proposed developments. The cost to build housing in Boston is also a significant challenge.
4. My view of affordable/mixed housing is that it needs to be high quality, well managed, with access to affordable transportation, jobs, services, supports, and green space. It needs to be subsidized for a variety of incomes for the long term
5. Other thoughts: given the shortage of affordable housing we need to get creative as to how we retrofit many of the office buildings that I believe will remain empty post pandemic. We will need to access what I hope will be significant funding from the infrastructure bill to create new subsidy, build new housing and preserve existing affordable housing developments for the long term. Preservation deals such as Charlesview’s that not only preserve but increase the number of housing units are important to find and through partnerships between for-profit and non-profit developers get the redeveloped. We also need to pressure the City on its lack of attention to creating truly affordable rental and homeownership opportunities both in A/B and across the City. Finally we need to develop more of a regional approach to affordable housing in partnership with our neighboring cities and towns.
Photo by: edwardboches.com
Do you care about the Allston Brighton community and want to get more involved? Allston Brighton CDC’s Affordable Housing Action Committee (AHAC) meets monthly to address various community-identified issues.
Affordable Housing Action Committee
AHAC is devoted to preserving and increasing affordable housing opportunities and stabilizing existing communities in Allston Brighton. Meets the 4th Wednesday of every month at 6 PM.