Director of Community Preservation Committee Gives Update on CPA

Between advocacy and community groups in Boston, there has been a murmuring of the potential use of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to solve the numerous budget gaps often met while running non-profits and small organizations. But, it’s been over a year since the CPA was passed and many residents are still confused as to who qualifies for the funds and when they will become available.

In an effort to shed some light on what will happen to the funds, the director of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) attended the Fenway Civic Association’s 56th annual meeting to discuss the CPA and give an update on where the money is potentially going.

“We are trying to touch every neighborhood,” said Poff. “It can’t all go to Dorchester and it can’t all go to Mattapan. It is still so exciting we have this opportunity.”

Mayor Martin Walsh appointed Poff, a Jamaica Plain resident, the director of the Community Preservation Committee this past July.

The Preservation Committee is a newly designed position and committee that will shape the future of investments in Boston’s neighborhoods with funds contributed through the Community Preservation Act (CPA).

In November 2016, Boston voters approved the adoption of the Massachusetts CPA, which starting in 2018 will generate about $20 million of revenue to be used for the creation and acquisition of affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation.

The Community Preservation Fund is capitalized primarily by a 1-percent property tax-based surcharge on residential and business property tax bills that began in 2017. The state will contribute a 10-percent match bringing $18 million in revenue to $20 million.

Mayor Martin Walsh, in partnership with the Boston City Council, formed a Community Preservation Committee (CPC) that will study community preservation needs and make recommendations on how CPA funds should be allocated. The funding of any project requires a recommendation from the committee and appropriation by the City.

The members are made up of four community members that the City Council nominated from a diverse background of economic, diversity, and neighborhood representation.

The rest of the committee is made up from City commissions and agencies including the Boston Housing Authority, Boston Planning and Development Agency, Boston Parks, Conservation, and Landmarks commissions.

Boston is among 171 communities that have passed the act in Massachusetts.

Application process to receive CPA funds will begin in spring 2018 with plans for the first grants to be issued in summer 2018. As of right now, there are no funding guidelines. The CPC is looking to the community to get feedback on what is needed to improve neighborhoods across the city.

Poff said that in the first year they are hoping to support small and large projects that are visible to community members and are “shovel-ready” or won’t take long to implement. She would also like the project to address equity gaps, have broad community support, and be sustainable for a long-lasting benefit. There is also potential to close a funding gap, to finish projects that are already in the works but are stalled due to lack of money.

“People are paying for this so they want to recognize where that money is going,” said Poff.

The money is a bit flexible in some ways but 10 percent must be spent on each bucket category. Poff said that because housing is so expensive, it is expected the majority will go towards affordable housing, but she said a big chunk could also go towards historic preservation because there is currently no clear funding stream.

Poff said she wants to continue to get community engagement to figure out the best places for the money to go.

“The feedback I’ve gotten is to make this as open as you can,” said Poff. “Let’s be as transparent and open to the public as possible.”

Poff hopes to take these informational meetings to communities across the City to share what people can and cannot apply for. In addition, she wants to hear feedback on projects that are important to people who live in those communities.

“The Imagine 2030 meetings didn’t really take on the Fenway needs,” said Poff. “It met the needs in some areas like the need for more bike lanes but left out open space, which is very unique and a great need in this neighborhood. The plans didn’t get to the heart of what the city needs.”

Poff said there are so many people who care about this, and it is important to hear from stakeholders for this program.

“It’s the peoples law; it’s the people’s money,” said Poff. “I want to go out to as many neighborhood groups as I can.”

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