South End Comes in with Highest Percentage of Affordable Housing

The South End has taken a great amount of heat over the years for gentrification and the escalating cost of housing in the neighborhood, and that’s why many were surprised to learn that the South End neighborhood had the highest percentage of affordable housing in the City.

The information came due to the Department of Neighborhood Development’s (DND) first-ever inventory of all affordable housing, income-restricted, units in the City. That exhaustive inventory – which included traditional affordable housing, state public housing and federal public housing – found that of all the South End’s housing stock, 48 percent of it was income-restricted housing units.

It was the highest percentage in the city, and was followed up by Roxbury with 45 percent and Jamaica Plain and Charlestown at 25 percent.

“Creating more affordable housing and preserving Boston’s more than 54,000 income-restricted units are top priorities for my administration, and are a driving force behind our housing goals,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “This report helps us understand how many income-restricted units there are, where they are, and to whom they are affordable, all important information as we work to increase affordable housing opportunities in our neighborhoods.”

DND Chief Sheila Dillon said they have had people in her office dedicated to the inventory project for nearly one year.

“The people that live in Boston have a growing interest in the creation of affordable housing in Boston, where it is and who it is affordable to,” she said. “We had neighborhood numbers, but we never had this level of specificity – the affordability of every neighborhood and every part of Boston. It’s good as a tool for planning. Where do we have affordable housing and where don’t we. It’s a great planning tool for us and also a great tool for the general public to know where affordable housing is when they need it.”

Dillon said it will be an exercise repeated every year, likely in the fall.

Analysis of the 54,247 income-restricted housing units shows that 66 percent of them are restricted to households earning less than 50 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), or $43,150 for a two-person household. Of those units, 20,746 units or 38 percent are restricted for households making between 31-50 percent of AMI, which ranges from $25,900 to $43,000 for a two-person household. Many of those households may also be utilizing a mobile voucher, or a tenant-based voucher.

“This report documents the hard work done by housing advocates and members of the community over decades, much of it in partnership with the City of Boston,” said Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, CEO of IBA and co-chair of the Mayor’s Housing Task Force. “We’re proud that 48 percent of all the housing in the South End and Lower Roxbury is income-restricted, and are committed to maintaining and increasing that percentage. The positive effects that living in income-restricted housing has had on generations of Bostonians is real and long-lasting, and must be available in the future.”

Of the affordable housing in the South End, some of it was quite obvious, while others were less obvious – long-forgotten covenants that still exist and provide handfuls of units here and there across the neighborhood.

For instance, there are 24 affordable home ownership units at the Bates School, 75 rental units at the Brownstone Apartments, 102 at Camfield Gardens, and 10 ownership units at Clarendon-Warren Condos.

Meanwhile, large quantities of public housing units are also represented, including things like Cathedral’s 414 units and the hundreds of units in Camden-Lenox.

Meanwhile, other large amounts of affordable housing exist at the Villa Victoria, and there are 500 units at Castle Square.

All of it comes together to paint a radically different picture of the South End than exists in the minds of many residents, and even more people outside the neighborhood.

And Dillon said the South End likely wouldn’t be part of the next-step conversation, which will be to focus on the communities that were discovered to have very low amounts of affordable housing.

“I think we have to have conversations with areas that have very, very low percentages of affordable housing now and talk about what they would like to see,” said Dillon. “There isn’t a neighborhood in Boston that doesn’t want affordable housing. They want their kids and older parents to be able to stay with them in the city. I think we do have to meet with neighborhoods that have low numbers to see what the next steps are.”

One thing that will be a focus of the South End and all over Boston is the discovery that there needs to be more affordable ownership opportunities, Dillon said.

“We have a lot of affordable rental units,” she said. “Some 27 percent of our rental units are deed restricted affordable. That is a very high number, but it also came out that we don’t have a lot of affordable home ownership. We do want to increase the number of affordable home ownership opportunities in the City. We’ll be working on that as a next step as well.”

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