GentriWatch: Is Mayor Walsh’s $7.5 Million Bet Against Displacement Too Late?

Plus, the fight over another Southie Starbucks rages on.

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

Photo via Mayor's Office/Isabel Leon

Photo via Mayor’s Office/Isabel Leon

Boston in on the verge of a historic housing crisis. Rents are sky-high and evictions run rampant in the city’s struggling neighborhoods, while a new luxury high-rise seems to sprout up every other week. It takes a small fortune just to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment in the city, while options for family are evaporating.

Mayor Marty Walsh announced this week he’s earmarked $7.5 million for the fight to keep Boston affordable. But is it a classic case of too little, too late?

Through its new “Acquisition Opportunity Program,” the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development will use these funds to provide loans to developers seeking occupied, multifamily rental properties. In turn, these owners will be required to keep rents affordable for a minimum of 50 years, and that at least 40 percent of units will be restricted for low and moderate-income families.

“Boston is committed to making our city a home for everyone, no matter their age, background or financial status. This $7.5 million investment is another leap towards creating affordable housing for all our residents,” Walsh said in a release. “We are committed to growing our affordable housing stock, and programs like the Acquisition Opportunity Program ensures Boston residents will not be priced out of their homes and neighborhoods.”

To participate in the pilot program, developers also must agree that no tenant in good standing may be displaced.

• • •

You thought it was over, didn’t you?

Earlier this month, the Boston Licensing Board denied the permit needed to open a Starbucks at 749 East Broadway in South Boston. Neighborhood small business owners spoke out against the proposed coffee shop. Mayor Walsh similarly opposed it, citing a lack of community support.

But the Seattle-based coffee chain has convinced the board to hold another hearing on the matter, after representatives meet with residents to address their concerns, Jon Chesto reports. Longtime residents say the Starbucks would harm independently owned cafes and breakfast joints and make an already busy thoroughfare more congested, while other residents argue that the city shouldn’t deny the permit simply because Starbucks is a chain.

While the licensing board has agreed to another hearing, a date has not yet been set.

Notice something changing in your neighborhood? Let me know:, @KyleClauss.