Boston Housing Authority (BHA) Director Bill McGonagle has said repeatedly that the Authority will do everything in its power not to lose one deeply affordable public-housing unit despite the pressures of the hot real estate market, and on Tuesday morning, several partners joined him in keeping that promise at the Lenox-Camden development in the South End.
“We can’t afford to lose one unit of affordable housing in the city,” said McGonagle on Tuesday. “At the BHA, we have drawn a line in the sand. We will not lose one unit of deeply affordable housing in the city. That is critical.”
And not only were they not losing anything at Lenox-Camden, but they are now also improving them with another in a series of public-private partnerships. This time, Beacon Communities has partnered with the BHA, and just down the street, IBA has partnered with them to take on BHA units as well.
On Tuesday, Mayor Martin Walsh and McGonagle kicked off the $23 million redevelopment of 367 affordable housing units at the Lenox/Camden Housing Development. In Phase One, Beacon Communities will improve and preserve 72 units of affordable public housing on Camden Street. Phase Two will include the renovation of the adjacent Lenox site, which is slated to begin next year.
“This renovation marks an important new chapter for this historic development, and I am proud to begin our work together today to make his neighborhood stronger than ever,” said Mayor Walsh. “This redevelopment will not only modernize these buildings to make them more energy efficient, safe and accessible, but will help us continue to set a national standard for quality public housing.”
He also said it would create more “real” green space.
“Most of the green space is concrete and hot top,” he said. “It might have worked in the 1970s, but not now. We will get that grey space up and replace it with real green space.”
The Camden development will undergo substantial renovations to all 72 of its apartment units, including new kitchens, bathrooms, paint, flooring, and windows. The project will modernize the building, bring energy-efficiency improvements, improve accessibility throughout the site, and create four fully handicap accessible units, as well as landscaping improvements. The Camden project is expected to create more than 60 full-time jobs by the time of the project’s completion in June 2020.
“Beacon is proud of our long partnership with the Boston Housing Authority and grateful to the many city and state and federal agencies and other partners who made this transaction possible,” said Beacon Communities CEO Dara Kovel. “The rehabilitation will allow for Camden Apartments to serve as a quality affordable housing resource for many years to come.”
Camden was one of the first city projects authorized under the Commonwealth Veterans Assistance program, allocated to support returning veterans after World War II, and the only housing development of its kind built in Lower Roxbury. Camden’s history helped the site secure federal and state historic tax credits through the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the National Park Service.
The planned renovations represent an investment of more than $23 million that will preserve Camden’s long-term affordability through new operating subsidies and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. The state public housing subsidy will be replaced by 48 federal Project-Based Vouchers for low-income residents, and 24 subsidized vouchers that will be funded through the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program.