Letter to the Editor

We Need More Affordable Housing

Dear Editor,

We are writing to express concerns about Related Beal’s proposed redevelopment for the site that formerly housed the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT) now relocating to Roxbury. The South End needs more affordable housing and opportunities, right here, for residents of all incomes to age in place. In spite of the unbridled gentrification the neighborhood has seen in the past decades, about thirty percent of our South End neighbors live in affordable or subsidized housing. It is our understanding that increasing affordable housing and supporting diverse neighborhoods is a major goal of the Mayor’s office and the city’s planning agencies. We believe this work in the South End is overdue and our neighborhood will be better with more diversity, not less. Therefore we believe that replacing BFIT, a historically diverse school and community, with a market rate assisted living facility and expensive market rate condos does little to meet our neighbors’ needs. This project will be the largest development in the South End’s Ellis neighborhood for the foreseeable future. It would be a missed opportunity not to prioritize more housing and/or senior assisted living that is affordable to all of our residents and not only the wealthy.

It is our understanding that Related Beal proposes to replace BFIT with three developments. The historic Franklin Union building would be converted into 35 condominiums, with one single affordable unit. Considering the need in our neighborhood, this seems an awfully low percentage of market rate to affordable housing units. Another portion of the development would be a newly constructed, market rate, senior assisted living facility with 236 rooms/beds — with no affordable units. The third and smallest part of the project would be 16 affordable 55+ micro apartments. These units are a tiny fraction of the total development and these lower income neighbors would have no access to senior care amenities. For reasons the developer has yet to state, the buildings at 6 and 6A Appleton Street, although included in the sale of BFIT, would not be developed as part of this project.

The project Related Beal is proposing in the South End would likely not be built for many years. In that time the city plans to increase the affordable housing requirement for new developers to well above what is required now, up to a level that is more in line with what the city truly needs. Mayor Wu has repeatedly called out the city’s desperate need for affordable housing, especially for seniors. Her office has stated an aspirational goal of increasing the city’s supply of affordable and senior affordable housing to 20%. Our neighbors and especially our seniors should have options to stay in the neighborhoods they helped to build. We must do a better job not only building affordable housing at a realistic rate relative to market rate housing, but plan better for the ability of all of our residents, regardless of income, to be able to age in place with dignity..

This BFIT development is the one of the very few large sites left in our neighborhood and our only option in the foreseeable future to begin to address our prescient need for affordable housing and affordable senior care. Considering the status of the project to date – no sale and no permits- we firmly believe the city has every right to stand up for our neighbors in need, support diversity in our neighborhood, and help to shape this project moving forward. If BFIT moves ahead with its sale to Related Beal, we would like this project to reflect the real needs of our neighborhood, including the needs of our lower income neighbors. This project must significantly increase the number of dignified affordable housing units and increase its affordable senior housing and assisted care accommodations.

Julie Arnheiter

Ellis Neighborhood Association DEI Chairperson

Ellis DEI Committee works to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in our neighborhood and the South End

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