Last week, Charlestown turned out in force for a hearing on the redevelopment of the Bunker Hill housing community. I thank each and every resident, community organization, municipal and state official and prospective developer who attended. In particular, I am grateful for the participation of residents of BHA housing who are most impacted by present housing conditions, relocation and redevelopment.
What we heard is that Charlestown and the City of Boston are committed to moving forward with this project. We are committed to the 1,100 deeply affordable units at the Bunker Hill housing, to care for individual residents and families during the long, multi-phase project, and to solicit extensive input from the community at-large.
Importantly, BHA residents want their voices to guide the process, to have safe housing, a good quality of life and ultimately to ensure their families and their children have equal opportunity in our society. Parents want expanded educational opportunities for their kids. As their housing is redeveloped, as their families are relocated, as community benefits are negotiated, residents want a seat at the table every step of the way.
At the hearing, we learned important details. The Boston Housing Authority will use a 99-year ground lease to ensure affordability remains in place as the housing evolves from public housing to a public-private and mixed-income development. The federal government’s declining support for public housing – including funds needed for maintenance and operations – have necessitated a shift in financing for the project, which may cost as much as $1 billion.
Most recently, the designated developer, Corcoran Jennison, has sought out a new partner, Leggat McCall, whose co-designation is pending. Developers on the project are selected by a joint committee of BHA staff and residents of the housing itself. If Leggat McCall is also designated, we are likely to see robust dialogue on the project resume in May and a new draft of plans for the housing emerge in fall 2018.
As Charlestown district councilor, I will push for an active and public conversation in our community. I am also committed to do everything in my power to create new revenue for affordable and middle-income housing and to wisely steward the funds we have. With that in mind, I will be co-hosting a presentation on Community Preservation Act funds and have called for a council hearing on housing speculation.
With regards to BHA housing, I look forward to hearing from BHA residents and all members of the Charlestown community about their perspectives, ideas and concerns. As the residents are temporarily relocated in stages, we need to attend to their short- and long-term needs. Issues raised by the community at large around housing affordability, historic preservation, traffic and public schools must be addressed through a suite of solutions and consistent advocacy. Charlestown is a community of strong, vocal, committed residents and with persistence we will ensure the neighborhood remains a vibrant community that celebrates its long legacy on contributions to Boston.
Lydia Edwards, Boston City Councilor, District One