GentriWatch: ‘The Clarion’ Brings 32 Affordable Housing Units to Roxbury

Plus Boston's vanishing middle class, and Somerville's gentrification gaining attention.

Welcome to GentriWatch, where we look for signs of gentrification happening around the city.


Rendering via Boston Redevelopment Authority

Rendering via Boston Redevelopment Authority

PROPONENTS OF affordable housing tallied a small victory Thursday night, as the Boston Redevelopment Authority unanimously approved “The Clarion,” a project comprised of a four-story, mixed-use building with 38 apartments, and a two-family home at 311 Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury. The former, planned for a lot that has sat vacant for nearly four decades, will have retail space on the ground level.

Of the project’s 40 units, 32 will be made affordable through an agreement between developer Community Builders and the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development, while the remaining eight will be offered at market rate. The Clarion will also feature onsite parking for 32 vehicles, as well as bicycle parking.

Construction on the $12 million project is expected to begin this fall, with an expected winter 2016 completion date.

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THINGS DIDN’T GO quite as well for Keep It 100 For Egleston, who staged its second tent city at 3200 Washington Avenue in Egleston Square, where the BRA has approved 76 residential units, 18 of which (24 percent) would be made affordable—a far cry from the 100 percent activists seek.

The project cleared its last hurdle at Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday with backing from Mayor Marty Walsh, City Councilor Matt O’Malley, and Councilor-at-Large Michael Flaherty, reports the Jamaica Plain News.

“There will be no displacement and we will provide much needed housing,” said Joe Hanley, attorney for the project’s developers. “There are 170 letters of support, including Egleston Square Main Streets and area businesses…The entire development has been through an intensive 14-month long Article 80 process with 20 community meetings.”

The ZBA voted 6-1 to grant the requested variances for 3200 Washington Avenue, with member Bruce Bickerstaff the lone dissenter.

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BOSTON’S MIDDLE CLASS is rapidly disappearing. Working families are sprawling away from the city proper as they find themselves unable to afford living here, only to encounter raising rents in the suburbs, too.

The Boston Globe ran a terrific story on this troubling phenomenon with a handful of startling figures:

  • Boston households with incomes between $35,000 and $75,000 are down 3 percentage points from 2000.
  • Median rents in Boston have risen by close to 50 percent over the last decade, to $2,200 a month. Wages, meanwhile, have remained static.
  • Boston rents are rising at five times the rate of income.
  • Towns south of Boston have seen rents rise by almost 10 percent.

As the Globe notes, the evaporation of housing options available to Boston’s middle class is exacerbated by the city’s insatiable need for more off-campus student housing. “Complicating the problem, real estate developers are scooping up multifamily buildings in places like Dorchester and East Boston,” writes Katie Johnston, “fixing them up to attract higher-end renters and sometimes evicting tenants in the process, housing advocates say.”

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WHILE THE NATTERING nabobs of cable news wax pseudo-philosophical about what exactly Donald Trump is doing to our political landscape, the Age of the Ukulele has dawned in Somerville.

Elizabeth Weinbloom—the freelance writer who released a ukulele campaign song by local artist Amy Kucharik earlier this week— garnered enough votes in Thursday’s Ward 6 to face Progressive Together for Somerville cofounder Lance Davis in November’s general election for alderman.

Weinbloom, 30, has made rising housing costs a key part of her campaign, which she describes as “a referendum on affordable housing.”

To stave off gentrification, Weinbloom has proposed an increase in what is asked of developers for affordable housing; greater diversity in single, family, and senior units, as well as artist work spaces; a “benevolent landlords fund,” rewarding good behavior for the city’s longtime landlords; and a 1-percent transfer tax on real estate transactions above a to-be-determined threshold aimed at directly subsidizing affordable housing while discouraging flipping and speculation.

Somerville’s Ward 6 includes Davis Square.

Notice something changing in your neighborhood? Let me know: [email protected], @KyleClauss.