Townie Tidbits

HOW TO MAKE BOSTON’S BUILDING BOOM WORK FOR RESIDENTS?

Boston is in the midst of a building boom, much like city leaders and residents said took place back in 1983, when gentrification started seeping into places like Charlestown, where I resided at the time. Home prices and rental properties zoomed to the moon.

It went by pretty unnoticed by most, but eventually a beachhead for gentrification was established inside the old Charlestown Navy Yard and rammed through the Navy Yard wall into the community as a whole.

Here we are today in 2019 and the current Boston building boom looks like King Kong next to a baby chimp. More and more high-end housing rises into the sky all over Downtown Boston and scattered across the city’s neighborhood landscapes. It is like a cancer spreading from one end of the city to the other.

Readers of the Boston Sunday Globe (Jan. 20) saw that Page 1 advertisement for ECHELON Seaport – Destination Living condominiums priced from the mid-$700,000 range to $5 million.

Listen to the sales pitch:  ‘It’s not just where you live. It’s how. Why fit in when you were born to stand out? Amenities that will know your stilettos off.’

Columnist Joe Galeota who writes in the Boston Bulletin has been around a while like me, musing at how this city grows both in positive and negative ways. As he recently penned, “Right now, if empty-nesters, as part of a downsizing decide to sell their homes after paying off 30-year mortgages and their children have moved out, they have no place to rent alongside other seniors in their zip code anywhere in the entire city.”

As I look around from my view on Eagle Hill in East Boston, I wonder where the middle-class of firefighters; police officers, like myself; store clerks; social workers; nurses; dentists and hair dresser can they live out their so-called golden years, which I think vanished decades ago with all the money made by developers looking to make all the gold they can for themselves.

I look back to my experience in Charlestown. In 1969, my parents rented a two-bedroom apartment at 12 Pearl St.; the rent $150 plus utilities – not bad. I remember back in 1970 you could buy a little cookie-cutter house by Bartlett Street for $9,000. About 20 years later, the same tiny house went up for sale for $125,000. I don’t even want to think what the house price for that little attached row -house might go for today.

The market rent for a one-bedroom is now twice what a minimum-wage worker takes home on payday. We have an affordable housing CRISIS today. I do not think anyone can build our way out of this crisis. As Jonathan Cohn of Boston stated in his printed letter to the Boston Globe: “We need to make sure that we are building for all income levels and that we are aware of the ripple effects that come with new development.”

City Hall has stated expectations that between 2014 and 2030, there will be 105,000 new residents populating our city. Who will they be? Who will be excluded by price? Where will these folks go for shelter? Where are families to settle?

We keep building new housing units in new developments where perhaps out of 25 units, four will be affordable. We can’t keep this kind of growth going because the downside will be too costly for all average working families.

We have elected officials out there trying to do the right thing like my District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edwards or my longtime friend, District 3 City Councilor Eddie Flynn. The Boston City Council members are trying to help make Boston a livable city.

We should not become a city of extremes where only the very rich or very poor can co-exist. I have seen this situation play out before in other large cities.

Our Mayor Marty Walsh wants to add 105,000 folks to our population. The City of Austin in 10 years time has gone from 800,000 to 960,000. Growth in numbers isn’t helping the growing number of folks there living in the shadow of prosperity. The same is true here.

I want the City of Boston to grow but not by destroying places like Charlestown that could be swallowed up and destroyed. We cannot become a city of only the very rich and very poor. We need everyone to grow better together.

I urge community folks to keep fighting, keep communal voices high and never give up. “Never, never give up,” as Winston Churchill once stated in one of the world’s darkest hours.

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