Fenway CDC Holds 48th Annual Meeting Virtually

The Fenway Community Development Corporation (CDC) held its 48th Annual Meeting virtually on April 29, after not holding one last year because of the pandemic.

The program consisted of a Year in Review video, the distribution of awards to John LaBella, Lifeboat Boston, and Kristen Mobilia, and a keynote speech from Chuck Collins, Director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.

The Year in Review video featured members of the CDC’s different committees, including the Housing, Organizing, Racial and Housing Justice Committee, and more.

The Housing Committee reported that they have been able to work together virtually on various projects, including the Burbank Terrace project, which consists of 27 units of affordable housing.

The Organizing committee reported on its work with preventing the eviction of women fro the Our Lady’s Guild House in the Fenway, and Director of Policy and Community Planning Richard Giordano said that the CDC “continued our work in reviewing projects and development proposals” during the last half of 2020.

The organization continued advocating for more affordable housing in the neighborhood.

The Community Programs team reported that Fenway Fair Foods was able to provide fresh, healthy food for Fenway residents during the pandemic, and the newly formed Racial and Housing Justice Committee reported that they came together in June of last year to discuss how to better include racial justice into the CDC”s efforts.

Community Service Awards were given to John LaBella, Lifeboat Boston, and Kristen Mobilia, for their dedication and commitment to the Fenway community.

“The three awardees really encompass what community service means here in the Fenway. From distributing food to starting a mutual aid network to advocating for housing, each of our awardees are leaders in their own right,” said Fenway CDC Board Clerk Mia Jean-Sicard.

After hearing from the three awardees, holding an election for the the CDC Board, and having participants create a word cloud about what the Fenway means to them, keynote speaker Chuck Collins gave a presentation about disruptions in the city that are impacting wealth equality.

“The Fenway CDC is an organization that is wrestling with invisible giants,” he said. He said that in the past 30 or 40 years, there has been an “extraordinary updraft of wealth to not just the top one percent, but the top one tenth of one percent. And then that money is coming into our communities in various disruptive forms.”

He spoke about the “short term rental situation” in Boston, which has been a topic of interest to the Fenway CDC, which has worked to regulate short term rentals in the city as housing units were being taken off the market to be used for this purpose.

“This was a force that we could not have anticipated five or 8 years ago,” Collins said, adding that more large corporations have been buying “big blocks of rental housing,” as they discover that they can make money from renting them short-term. He said he is “really concerned” about big private companies purchasing large numbers of units.

He also said that “global wealth” is “fueling luxury housing disruption,” and the Fenway and other neighborhoods are “right in this vortex of these various invisible giant forces.”

Collins mentioned One Dalton Place, saying it is “a building you can see as you walk through the Fenway as kind of a symbol of sort of the new luxury development.”

He continued, “Part of what a group like Fenway CDC has to do is sort of shadowbox almost these invisible giants.”

Collins also said, “it’s hard enough just to do plain old affordable housing development in the current expensive housing market let alone to have to grapple with these forces.”

He said a potential solution is thinking about things like continuing to limit the short term rental market aside from those using it as a legitimate source of income on a small scale, as well as how luxury real estate transactions can be taxed, such as the transfer tax passed by the City Council and signed by Mayor Walsh that imposes a tax of up to two percent on “the transfer of units over $2 million,” Collins said.

He said “if that law had been in place for the first half of the sales of units at One Dalton Place,” it would have garnered “$7-$8 million in fees for the city’s housing funds,” and nearly double that once all units sold. 

“We still have this challenge,” Collins said, “which is we have to get the state legislature to pass our home rule petition to allow the city of Boston to tax itself to create more resources for affordable housing. Boston has done its part and now it’s up to the rest of the state.”

At the end of the presentation, there was a chance for neighbors to mingle and chat with one another on the Zoom call.

“From awards to games community updates to rousing speeches, there’s a lot to look forward to as we continue on into 2021,” Jean-Sicard said.

For more information on the Fenway CDC and its programs, visit fenwaycdc.org.

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