Community Members Celebrate Preservation of Burbank Gardens

By Beth Treffeisen

In a rare feat, the Fenway Community Development Corporation (CDC) joined together with elective officials, supporters and residents in celebration of the preservation of 52 units of affordable housing at the Burbank Garden Apartments on Thursday, Oct. 12.

The city of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) worked with the Fenway CDC to acquire the building in 2016 and renovate its 52 apartments, located on Burbank Street in the Fenway.

The deed restrictions on the buildings units were expiring and with help of the city, state, and funders, the Fenway CDC was able to purchase the building from the owners, protecting existing tenants from displacement and preserving the long-term affordability of the mixed-income development.

“I want to thank the Fenway CDC for doing this work for close to four and half decades,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “Their work goes towards creating affordability, accessibility and long-term well-being of people in the neighborhood.”

The 52-unit Burbank Gardens Apartments is one of 12 “13A Properties” in the City of Boston. The 13A program was a state mortgage subsidy program, administered by MassHousing that has been defunded. All 1,138 apartments in the 12 properties across the city will lose their 13A subsidies in the next three years.

The purchase of the property by the Fenway CDC protects the tenants in the building, many of whom have restricted incomes and have been residents for decades, from displacement by preserving the affordability of the units.

“This project was a complicated and challenging feat,” said Greg Haig the board president of Fenway CDC. “It required an enormous amount of partnerships, housing experts and a lot of work just to preserve these units.”

Starting in January 2018, Fenway CDC will undertake substantial renovations of the apartments including heating and ventilation-system upgrades, accessibility improvements, window replacement, elevator modernization, exterior masonry work, the addition of a ground-water recharge system, and the installation of sprinkler and fire-alarm systems.

“I’m really looking forward to putting this puzzle together,” said City Councilor Josh Zakim. “We need to make sure this neighborhood retains affordable housing and creates more.”

The city’s commitment includes $2.5 million for the acquisition of the building, plus $2.5 million in DND and Neighborhood Housing Trust funding for the rehabilitation of the property.

In addition to the City’s funds, MassHousing committed $5 million in soft debt. The Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), provided both a predevelopment loan and, with participation by Eastern Bank, an $8.2 million acquisition loan.

In August, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) of Massachusetts awarded $3 million in permanent, soft financing so that the Fenway CDC can rehabilitate Burbank Gardens and to ensure the 52 apartments remain affordable for low and moderate-income households.

“Public housing is the best thing for affordable housing,” said State Rep. Byron Rushing. “The only thing that comes close is CDC’s…I would like to see more funding sources for all public housing. People shouldn’t have to go through all of this, but they have and the Fenway CDC did an amazing job.”

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