By Beth Treffeisen
There was a lot of excitement in the air at the Fenway Community Development Corporation (Fenway CDC) 44th annual meeting this past Thursday, April 13, with the recent news of the acquisition of Burbank Gardens Apartments. This is the first property in over a decade that Fenway CDC has been able to acquire.
The Fenway CDC works to build a future in the neighborhood that is economically vibrant, culturally diverse, and holistically healthy for its residents.
This includes creating and protecting housing for low and moderate-income families and individuals, shaping the communities future through organizing and planning, and connecting households with services and resources that help people thrive.
“We are here for a celebration – the least best kept secret, which is the acquisition of the Burbank Gardens,” said Leah Camhi the executive director of Fenway CDC. “We are absolutely thrilled to add this to our growing portfolio.”
The acquisition of Burbank Gardens by the Fenway CDC is significant because it is the first 13A Expiring-Use property in the state to be preserved as affordable housing by a non-profit organization.
The state-run program of mortgage subsidies is ending and the owners were free to sell the 52 units on the open market. A dozen other properties throughout the state ran into the same situation.
In Boston there are currently 11 other properties with 1,138 apartments on the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC) High-Risk Expiring-Use Watch list. If all of these buildings were to be put on the market at the end of their subsidy restrictions thousands of tenants could be faced with displacement.
“This is really just the beginning for us,” said Camhi. “We hope to build more in the future and we hope to make more saves in the near future. Just stay tuned and look forward to all the good things yet to come.”
The Fenway CDC was able to obtain this building because of the collaboration of the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) that worked with the State to designate the Fenway CDC as the preservation bidder.
Due to the DND’s early commitment, the Fenway CDC was able to put in a bid to purchase the property, which was accepted by the owners. Without the Fenway CDC intervention, the building could have gone to the highest bidder.
This purchase will protect the tenants in the building, many of who have very low incomes and have been living there for decades.
At the annual meeting three nominees Katherine Greenough, Iola Key, and Mathew Hall were elected for the Fenway CDC Board of Directors. The keynote speaker was Sheila Dillon, the city of Boston chief of housing and director of the DND.
“Rents are getting higher and people are being displaced and that keeps us up at night,” said Dillion.
Through the Go Boston 2030 plan Dillion said that they are working towards getting 5,300 new units of housing that is affordable, middle-income, and elderly.
“We are starting to see it take the price down from the old housing stock that has gone down about four percent,” said Dillion about the effect of the amount of luxury apartments that have recently hit the market. “The studio and one bedroom went down about eight percent but that is still not affordable – the rent reduction isn’t going to serve all those families.”
At the meeting there were also five 2017 Community Service Award recipients: Louvere Walker-Hannon, David Roberts, Marc Pelletier and the non-profit Fair Foods.
Fair Foods is a food-rescue program that specializes in direct distribution of surplus produce and other healthy foods to low-income neighborhoods. The non-profits mission is to provide the same quality produce sold in supermarkets to everyone, regardless of income.
It operates a $2-a-bag food distribution program at over 50 churches, schools, senior centers, and public housing across Greater Boston.
Kris Anderson the community programs director of the CDC worked with Nancy Jamison the found of Fair Foods to bring the program to the Fenway Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral.
Dillion at the meeting said that the City of Boston looks forward to continue to work with the Fenway CDC.
“I think we need to be careful that we don’t lose Boston,” said Dillion. “As we move forward we need to be careful to keep the buildings and places that we treasure. I want to thank the Fenway CDC because it has been very productive in government.”