East Boston Community Development Corporation (CDC) head, Al Caldarelli responded to criticism in the neighborhood that he is trying to pull off a bait and switch concerning the CDC’s plans for the Boston East Site.
There has been growing concerns among Eastie residents that the CDC and Trinity Financial is changing its original plan of a majority market rate development on the waterfront to a majority affordable housing development.
In recent weeks, rumors began floating that instead of walking away from the project after its inability to secure financing, CDC and Trinity began working outside the scope of its original proposal pitched to the community when is was picked as the city’s designated developer of the site by the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) in 2006. To secure funding it was reported last week that the CDC and Trinity was working to secure funding through low-income housing tax credits and Federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants.
Caldarelli did not dismiss these claims but tried to put a positive spin on these efforts in a letter sent to the East Boston Times.
“We are proposing to build 81 luxury apartments on the Boston East site the construction and rent-up of these units will provide the other developers with the opportunity to provide their investors with adequate comps,” said Caldarelli. “In order to accomplish this program it is necessary to secure financing utilizing the various sources available for affordable housing. This will result in a hundred and ten units being rented for one $1,000 for a one-bedroom unit and twelve hundred fifty dollars $1,200 for a two bedroom unit.”
Caldarelli added that average income required of a tenant(s) is $59,000 but failed to mention that dollar figure is the maximum a tenant(s) could make to qualify for the 110 units now being made affordable under the CDC’s new plan. These units would be 60 percent of the medium income under state and federal guidelines.
The original plan called for 200 units with only 26 units (13 percent) being affordable—the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s requirement for new development. After being picked as the DND’s designated developer the CDC upped the affordable component to 52 units (26 percent), doubling the BRA requirement.
However, Caldarelli remained careful not to label the new direction the project is heading as an ‘affordable’ housing project.
“No one is proposing a low income housing project,” said Caldarelli. “The proposal provides for housing opportunities for the hundreds of East Boston residents who are trying to stay in East Boston.”
Caldarelli took some flak for making similar statements when proposing to build 27 affordable unit at 170 Maverick Street. Caldarelli insinuated that those would be for ‘East Boston families and their children who want to stay in the neighborhood’.
Under fair housing laws, if a project is accepted and built as affordable rental housing with tax credits and HUD funding, the CDC, by law, would have to hold a lottery for the units and would be unable to guarantee that the families would be Eastie based families.
In the end resident in Eastie are clamoring for the city to send the waterfront project for the Boston East Site back out to bid because it has changed so dramatically.
“I hope along with our representatives we show a little back bone and do everything we can to stop any attempt to continue to flood Eastie with below market real estate,” said Steven Anthony. “No one begrudges anyone who wants to be able to afford decent housing. But these projects need to have an eye toward better retail venues. Eastie is currently like a very big, very dirty rooming house. Enough is enough. Where’s the mayor? Does Southie have a better view than us? No, just more demanding citizens and reps.”