The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) and developer Leggat McCall held a very important meeting on Tuesday night with the Charlestown Residents Alliance (CRA) and tenants from the Bunker Hill Development regarding preparations for Phase 1.
The plans, of course, are contingent upon the developer getting approval from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and City’s Zoning Commission following a comprehensive Article 80 public review that is to begin this fall.
Front and center in that resident-only meeting Tuesday was who would need to be relocated for Phase 1 and how that would be accomplished, and Councilor Lydia Edwards said she was very encouraged by how the meeting was handled.
That went for not only the officials, but also the residents and CRA.
“I told the tenants they are not only brave, but also are going to set the mold on how tenants will live through and thrive through transition,” she said. “Literally they are the first to get bonding for housing, the largest housing development in New England and will return to a mixed income neighborhood. I feel the CRA and the tenants don’t get enough credit for their advocacy intelligence and leadership. That includes advocating for 40 units on site to be reserved for the 53 families that have to go. If found, that would take the number down to 13 units. Our goal is to assure only those that want to leave will have to go.
“I was told by a resident ‘too many people think we are stupid because we are poor,’” continued Edwards. “They deserve credit and acknowledgement for their hard work and setting an example of community lead development.”
According to information received by the Patriot Bridge, affected residents will be notified starting very soon, but at least by November of the Authority’s intent to move forward. That, as outlined in a signed document, would trigger a number of services and safeguards.
Chief among those points are the guaranteed right to return for 1,010 families currently in the development, if they so choose, and loads of relocation counseling and moving costs paid for by the developer.
“In the next few weeks, you will receive a General Information Notice that will inform you that the BHA intends to redevelop Charlestown,” read the info letter. “By November 2019, households in Phase 1 will receive a Notice of Eligibility for Relocation Assistance, which will mark the official start of the Relocation Program. BHA is in the process of selecting a contractor. Once the relocation contractor is selected, the relocation team will begin counseling residents and asking residents to state their relocation preferences…Once your preference is noted, BHA and the relocation contractor will work with you to find a safe, decent, affordable unit.”
Importantly, no one should move before getting the relocation notice, and that notice will give residents 120 days to vacate their unit.
The addresses in Phase 1 include (approximately 53 units):
•9 Corey St.
•17 Corey St.
•1 Starr King Ct.
•9 Starr King Ct.
•50 Decatur St.
•58 Decatur St.
A major piece of the relocation plan is a new Letter of Assurance that guarantees residents who have to move or relocate be able to return, with full tenant rights, to a brand new unit within the new mixed-income development. That agreement was signed by the BHA, Leggat McCall and the CRA. It also guaranteed that they would have the same units, with similar finishes and amenities (like an in-unit washer and dryer), as those paying market rate.
“All current Charlestown residents who are required to relocate temporarily for the redevelopment project have the right to return and be rehoused in a new unit at the Charlestown site should they choose to do so,” read the Letter of Assurance.
There are three exceptions to that promise though. They would not be able to return if they get evicted for a serious violation, move out permanently from BHA housing, or transfer permanently to another BHA housing community.
One key provision fought for by the CRA is to keep as many families on site as possible, transferring to vacant units within the development. That is key because it helps children be able to continue schooling in Charlestown and for adults to access services they are familiar with already. As of now, it appears only 13 families will have to move off-site temporarily.
For those who are relocated within or outside of Bunker Hill, they are guaranteed the services of a professional moving company, packing materials, utility reconnection fee reimbursement and a dislocation allowance of $100. There are three options as well, with one being a lump sum payment, and another being reimbursement via documentation like receipts.
In addition to moving within the development or outside the development, residents can choose to take a Section 8 voucher to rent an apartment in Boston or elsewhere. They can also choose to receive a modest down payment assistance fund toward purchasing a home.
There is also a program whereby residents of Bunker Hill can meet with the construction coordinator for an apprentice program with the Carpenters Union. That would get them into the pipeline for the union and give them the ability to work on their own homes, if they choose.
Edwards pointed out the relocation of 53 families, most of them to stay on-site, is a drastic improvement over the first iteration in One Charlestown where hundreds of families were going to have to leave the Town, and without the signed Letter of Assurance.
“It’s my responsibility here to make sure all of these promises are kept throughout the process,” she said.