HUD Choice Neighborhood Grant to bring community investment to Lower Roxbury
BOSTON – Monday, December 16, 2016 – (RealEstateRama) — Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Deputy Secretary Nani Coloretti, the Boston Housing Authority, Department of Neighborhood Development, Preservation of Affordable Housing, Madison Park Development Corporation, elected officials, and Whittier Street housing development residents to announce a $30 million federal grant to support the revitalization of Roxbury’s Whittier Street housing development and the surrounding neighborhood.
“As we shape Boston’s growth, we must make sure our progress benefits everyone, especially long-term residents of the City,” said Mayor Walsh. “I’m extraordinarily proud of the dedication of our partners who have come together to create a brighter future for the residents of Whittier Street and the surrounding neighborhood. We are so grateful for President Obama’s leadership, for our strong working relationship with HUD, our Congressional delegation who worked hard to bring us to this day and of course, all of our community partners and the Whittier residents, who have been absolutely critical in working toward this grant.”
“These game-changing investments will breathe new life into our neighborhoods and offer real opportunities for the families who call these communities home,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “What we do today will leverage private investment and bear fruit for generations of families looking for an opportunity to thrive in neighborhoods that are connected to the economic and social fabric of their communities.”
The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) and the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) worked collectively to submit a second Choice Neighborhoods application for $30 million to redevelop the Whittier public housing development and the surrounding neighborhood.
A crucial element of this project was the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) work to certify the land use approvals for the planned development, which means that no further zoning or land use approvals are required to move forward with this project.
HUD created the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative to transform neighborhoods and link housing improvements with appropriate services, schools, public assets, transportation and access to jobs. In 2011, Boston was one of just five cities nationwide to receive one of the first-ever HUD Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Implementation grants. The Whittier Street grant marks Boston’s second Choice Neighborhoods grant.
“This is great news for the City of Boston and the Lower Roxbury neighborhood. The Choice Neighborhoods federal grant will help transform the Whittier Street Housing Development by renovating existing affordable housing units and creating additional housing opportunities. This federal investment will also have an impact on job creation and the local economy. I appreciate HUD’s support for the City’s revitalization plan,” stated Congressman Mike Capuano.
“This grant helps us to continue our commitment of providing healthy, safe, and accessible affordable housing to the residents that live within the Whittier corridor,” said BHA Administrator Bill McGonagle. “Every family in public housing deserves access, opportunity and the chance to strive for excellence. We believe this grant allows for these things to take place.”
The Whittier Street housing development is part of the larger neighborhood of Roxbury, with an area of roughly one square mile and 2,418 households. Built in 1953, Whittier Street is over sixty years old, and the HUD Choice Neighborhood grant will allow the property to be updated to fit with the current mixed-use neighborhood.
The plan for the Whittier community, driven by the goals of the Choice Neighborhoods program, encompasses three areas of focus and strategy: Neighborhood, Housing and People.
The $30-million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant will leverage an additional $260 million in private and public funds for commercial and residential development and public facilities in the Whittier neighborhood.
About the Boston Authority Authority
Boston Housing Authority (BHA) provides affordable housing to more than 58,000 residents in and around the City of Boston. Residents are assisted through a combination of public housing and federal and state voucher subsidy programs that provide a wide variety of housing opportunities. As the largest public housing authority in New England, the BHA houses close to 9 percent of the city’s residents.
Our mission is to provide stable, quality affordable housing for low and moderate income persons; to deliver these services with integrity and mutual accountability; and to create living environments which serve as catalysts for the transformation from dependency to economic self-sufficiency.
Whittier Choice Neighborhoods Initiative
Whittier Choice is a collaboration to transform the Whittier Street public housing development, to provide educational and economic opportunities for low-income residents, and to invest in community amenities and infrastructure that improve quality of life for all residents in the surrounding Lower Roxbury neighborhood. The partnership is led by the Boston Housing Authority and the City of Boston, the Whittier Street Tenant Task Force, Madison Park Development Corporation, Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc, and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative—with the involvement of local residents, community and non-profit organizations. A three-year community engagement process including dozens of resident meetings, neighborhood workshops, surveys, youth focus groups, and public hearings culminated in a vision that was submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in June 2016 as part of a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods implementation grant application.
The plan for the Whittier community encompasses three areas of focus and strategy: housing, neighborhood, and people.
The Housing Strategy centers upon the preservation of all 200 deeply subsidized units at the Whittier development, while adding moderate and market housing to create a better balance of housing options in the neighborhood. The deeply subsidized units will remain available to existing Whittier families, who average $14,000 in annual income and are guaranteed the right to return. The moderate income units will be available to families earning 60-120% of Area Median Income to help working families facing rising rents to remain in the neighborhood. Overall, the plan calls for demolition of the 200-unit distressed Whittier Street public housing site and replacing the units on- and off-site with an expanded program of 472 units of mixed-income rental housing—210 public housing replacement units and 262 moderate and market units, with 316 units on-site and 156 units off-site on nearby parcels, and 14,225 SF of commercial space.
The Neighborhood Strategy seeks to break down barriers that isolate current residents, promote physical and social connections, and link the neighborhood to the regional economy. There is a priority focus on improving public safety with safer, livelier streets. Several key improvements are proposed to bolster the new Arts and Culture District and revitalize a critical pedestrian corridor along Ruggles Street connecting Ruggles Station with historic Dudley Square. There will be a new park at the corner of Ruggles and DeWitt Streets that will include design and construction assistance from Madison Park High School students. There is a strong emphasis to increase homeownership, and to support existing homeowners. The project will also invest in local Roxbury entrepreneurs, with below-market retail spaces available for existing local businesses. The neighborhood strategies were identified through a community process with existing residents to define key improvements that would make the neighborhood a better place to live for those who live here now.
The People Strategy is a key cornerstone of the plan to empower existing residents with concrete educational and economic opportunities. The plan addresses a range of priority needs: income and asset building, health, education and youth development. At the center, Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath) will provide case management through its intensive Mobility Mentoring™ model—working with every family to define goals and resources to achieve those goals. The BHA, in partnership with EMPath and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, the City’s Promise Neighborhood grantee, as well as service providers, relocation counselors, property management staff, and resident leaders will connect residents to newly leveraged programs. Some specific examples include (1) expanding the highly successful Building Pathways program—a training program to bring more people of color into the construction trades—to the high school level at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School (MPTVHS); (2) providing hospitality training programs for adults at the Dudley Best Corps facility: (3) computer learning, out-of-school youth activities, and culinary training at the new DeWitt Community Center: (4) technical and entrepreneurial training at the Roxbury Innovation Center; (5) health and wellness programming at the Whittier Street Health Center; and (6) establishing a youth public safety career curriculum at MPTVHS.
The BHA is the Lead Applicant with the City of Boston as the Co-Applicant. In addition to the housing developers, POAH Madison Associates, there are two long-term, Roxbury-based institutions in formal partnership with the project: Madison Park Development Corporation, one of the oldest and largest community-development corporations in the nation, and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, the City’s Promise Neighborhoods grantee.
The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant will leverage another $260 million in private and public funds for commercial and residential development and public facilities in the Whittier neighborhood. In addition, hundreds of jobs are anticipated as a result of the project, with resident hiring (Section 3) requirements built into all contracts.
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