BRA approves new recreational facility for Jackson Square

The Boston Redevelopment Authority reports it's given its nod to a $16-million facility that will feature a skating rink in the winter and an indoor turf yard the rest of the year.

The Columbus Avenue facility is part of the Jackson Commons project, which also calls for 438 new housing units - 291 designated as "affordable" - and community facilities, along with new retail and office space on 11.2 acres along Columbus Avenue.

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291 brand new "affordable"

By on

291 brand new "affordable" housing units for the "less" fortunate in boston...

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BRA approval is not final

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It is important to note that BRA approval is only one small step of the approval process which includes little or no community input. The BRA is very good at sneaking projects past the community and also known for ignoring community desires. They have been responsible for tearing down entire vibrant neighborhoods, e.g. the West End.
More important in the process is the review by the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), where the community gets to attend and speak out.

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I'm not sure that using the

I'm not sure that using the destruction of the West End, as horrific as it was. is a good example how destructive the BRA is as opposed to what it was. As horrific as it was for the residents, it was over happened over a half-century ago. It's important to know that the BRA was brand new in the 1950's in the post Curley, Hynes administration. It was tasked with helping move an economically declining city into an economically viable 20th century.

Planned in the 1950's and executed in the 60's the redeveopment of the West End was the last big Boston example of an early 20th century effort to modernize old cities and help them adapt to the the post industrial automobile age. Because of the trauma of those efforts, from that point on, large redevelopment projects were either halted in their tracks or heavily modified to accommodate local neighborhoods.

Even back then it was obvious that Boston would not be a city of slaughter yards, leather tanneries and textile manufacturing. Those industries began exiting after the WWII.

The challenge facing city leaders then as now, is what future businesses will employ Bostonians as well as contribute to quality of life in a present and future city.

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Reverse Oprah - No houses for you and you and you

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The housing news in Boston this week is very interesting - on the one hand you have Copley Place presenting plans to build 290 luxury units that will probably sell for about $1000 a sf with condo fees to match. On the other hand you have a project of 438 units in a more middle class section of the city going up with 2/3 of the units set aside for "affordable" housing.

Do we build any middle class housing in Boston where the market simply sets the price any more? We definitely need the housing so the developments are welcome, but if we keep setting it aside for the uber-rich and the struggling to make ends meet - where are the middle class college educated workers that we need in the 21st century going to live?

Waltham?

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Whole Foods

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Must be middle class - only a 15 minute walk to the soon-to-be nearest Whole Foods :-) - but yes it will be on that side of the Orange Line.

Better watch out for those anti-Whole Foods people, they should be protesting the gentrification of Jackson Square any minute. A skating rink, how bourgeois. Next thing you know they'll open a wine store or something and all hell will break loose.

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Middle class housing

By anon on

"Do we build any middle class housing in Boston where the market simply sets the price any more?" It's pretty hard to do that in the Hyde/Jackson Square area, because the affordable housing people work as hard as possible to keep out market-rate developers.

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market rate developers

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By keeping out the market rate developers do you mean all of the converted condos in Hyde/Jackson Square? Or the luxury condos built on Wyman Street? Shame on non-profit developers for building housing for people of a lower-income including homeless individuals and families.

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Washington-Beech project in Roslindale

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At least some of the townhouses now being built as replacements for the old barracks-like apartments will be rent-to-own units.

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"Affordable" housing in

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"Affordable" housing in Boston really means subsidized. You're not "middle class" if everyone is helping you pay the rent every month.

There's a big problem with Boston being such a pain to develop in that only two groups can easily build anything in the city:

The rich politically connected developers for whom the public process is a joke and easily waved at the mayor's mumble.

Or

Politically connected Community Development Corporations which build for people dependent on public money, with public money, and take a nice cut for their management. People forget just because the mission statement says "community" they are often just another development corporation looking to make a buck, with other peoples' money.

Both groups are core constituencies for the people in power.

Letting developers build middle class housing for working people, that aren't rich enough to be political players, or poor enough to be dependent on incumbents keeping the gravy flowing, would upset the entrenched machine. So it isn't going to happen.

Why do you think we have century old zoning that wouldn't even allow our best neighborhoods to be built again under the guidelines? It's almost another form of gerrymandering.

The AUTHORITY has been running this crony con game for a very long time now. The only thing that's changed is that the bulldozers don't get free reign in 'blighted' neighborhood anymore.

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curious

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Would like to know what is considered affordable in Boston these days. For example, would a small 1 bedroom at 500 sq. ft. for $400K qualify? Not saying that's my opinion of affordable, does anyone know what the heck is the standard?

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Good question

I would say a 1 bedroom 500sqft apt at 400K would not be affordable housing since you are not getting much for a lot of money.

I would say anything above 250K isn't "affordable", since your family income would need to be somewhere around 50-100K to get something in that range. Boston is expensive and it is hard to save enough money for a 20% down payment for something in the 400K range.

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Affordability index

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The Inferred Affordable Mortgage for Boston (median income * 30% for 30-year fixed mortgage payment at current rate) is $328,855 as of April 2011.

What you buy with that mortgage is entirely up to the individual. If their claim of keeping the units "affordable to low and middle income" buyers will be accurate, however, then units will cost no more than about $330k using the above calculation for what a median income buyer can afford in Boston currently.

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I think there is an error in the site's explanation

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they use all of the 30% for the mortgage to arrive at that number - I believe that the 30% number traditionally includes property taxes, insurance and other debt. Also, that's for the mortgage, and means zero down which hopefully we are moving away from. So assuming a 4.5% mortgage (30 years), $17,000 PITI less $4000 in taxes and insurance - that leaves you with $13,000 annually for mortgage that gives you a mortgage of $213k - add in a down-payment of 5-20% depending on the requirements and you are looking at a total value of roughly $225-$275k as an "affordable" purchase range.

Granted - there may be less rigid qualifications and other programs available to help keep these affordable - but on a $55k household income - this should be "affordable" - granted - that's probably about what the market rate for 1-3 BR units of moderate size in this area would go for anyway, maybe a little less.

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Wasn't this project

By on

Wasn't this project "approved" a decade ago?

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Yes, and then the economy tanked

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The rec facility is going on land that was originally intended for something else (a DYS facility?) that the state pulled funding for. The new approval is for the revision in the plan that puts the rink/track where it's now planned for.

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affordable

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one of the jp cdcs recently built affordable condos for first-time buyers in hyde square that sold for around $170,000 for a 2bedroom. Single folks could make up to roughly $50,000 per year (maybe a little less). That seems middle-income too me

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a middle class person should make $150K-$200K/year

To replicate the life that people in our country had during the last period of sustained expansion (1950s-1960s), a person should be able to make over $150K/year. That will buy you the kinds of things that people in the 50s and 60s thought of as middle class housing. They bought such houses making $100/week. And that was in a one-income family!

Such a person would not have an impossible time buying a market rate house in JP.

If you want to know why people are upset with Whole Foods coming into JP, I suggest you look there. Certain people are able to afford the houses and a luxury food store, while the average kid coming out of college in Boston has no hope of making enough money to buy a house in JP.

I do not believe subsidized housing or permissive zoning are a solution to this for many of the reasons outlined in comments above. These supposed palliatives are just band-aids over the collapse of middle class incomes and wages. Taxing those of somewhat higher income to build public housing is not the way to regain the productivity which built the three-decker neighborhoods which today look so desirable.

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Definition of middle class?

By on

Keep in mind that a middle class family in the 50's probably meant the following:

You owned one car
You owned a 1500 sf house - probably with an oil heater but no AC
You had one telephone
You had one black and white television
You ate at home almost exclusively-restaurants were for special occasions only and you brought your lunch to work
The kids played a couple of organized sports, usually with old or borrowed equipment - maybe you owned the uniform shirt
You had probably a couple of board games and the nicer homes maybe had a pool table in the basement
Government services were a much smaller percentage of the overall economy - with tax rates to match

This is a lifestyle that even in JP almost any cop, firefighter or teacher could afford - even on a $75,000 salary today - even with a 2-3 kids

Think about what we consider middle class now

You own 2-3 cars
Your home is over 2000 sf with air conditioning
You have a home phone and everyone in the family has a cell phone
You have cable hooked up to 3-4 tv's in the house
You have high speed internet
You eat out several times a week at some form of restaurant and during the day you consume a steady diet of starbucks and other "purchased" foods
Your kids don't go to the ballfield and pick up a game - they are in all kinds of organized sports with lots of expensive equipment, awards, travel teams etc.
You own a Wii for the family, a dozen games, an ipod, 3 computers and a host of other electronic gadgets - plus you probably have a pool table, a boat or some other more exotic toy
Everything that moves and most things that don't are taxed to pay for all of the government we provide or have promised

Times have changed - you can argue that salaries haven't kept up ($75000 was equivalent to about $9000 in salary according to the Bureau of Labor Stats - I saw another quote that the median salary then was about $5000)

So a middle class family is making almost twice as much after inflation - but can't afford to buy a house - salaries do not seem to be the problem

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Factor time into this

When only one person works to pay all the bills, the other is free to do things for the family. We eat out more now that both I and my husband are working outside the home (although we have kids old enough to take up some slack). However, many families live on one paycheck still - and many can't even make it that way because the cost of housing has massively outstripped the inflation in pay. And once two adults are working? That costs more than one adult working - transportation, work clothing, time to cook and shop, etc.

Consider as well that a wii and games for it cost much less than a nice pool table did in the 50s. People have electronic toys because ... THEY ARE CHEAP! Buying a big TV is cheaper than taking everyone to the movies these days at $10 a head plus enormously priced popcorn. Entertainment costs were much lower 50 years ago. How much did you pay for your 45s?

If you are talking living in a place like JP ... or similar ... you are STILL talking a 1500square foot house with at best a window air conditioner or two. That's how I and my neighbors live in our older homes in Mefuh. And salaries ARE the problem, ducks. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, a modest home cost about 2x the median income. My inlaws bought in 1955 for $13K when my FIL was making about $6K. When my husband and I bought our 1500 sq ft home in 1998, we paid 190K - a bit more than 3x our income at the time, and about 4x median income. Now, with wages HIGHLY stagnant, our house would be more like 300K, about 5x median income. Similarly, my parents bought in PDX for $46K in 1988 - and I will be putting that house on the market for about $280K. Remember - this is all with stagnant wages, particularly since 2001!

Nice try on the taxes, too - those are actually less than they were when we had a society that considered social security and other supports to be what a civilized society provides. What we pay for is a lot of military that even the most dedicated "budget deficit" whiner won't mention, strangely enough. Funny how quiet people like Boner were when W was ruining the hard work of Clinton and Gore ...

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your numbers are off

By on

The question is - can someone on one middle class salary live as well as someone around 1960. Apples to apples - FAR, FAR better in absolute terms, but perhaps maybe not as much on relative terms compared to people at the higher end of the income spectrum.

Without addressing all of the details in your post, you are claiming that Boston area residents have a lower standard of living today than they did in 1960. 1998 - maybe, 1960 - no way, not even close.

As for civilization - keep in mind that in 1960 there was no medicare, no medicaid, no welfare, and no - fill in the blank with your favorite government service invented since 1960, the list goes on etc. etc. So much for supporting "civilization" back then.

While federal tax revenues as a percentage of the economy has remained fairly steady over time (17.8% in 1960, 17.5% in Bush's last year in office, 16.1% at its lowest under Bush in 2004 and currently 14.4% under Obama in 2011 - who's gutting whose hard work - you give Clinton/Gore a bit too much credit - the Republicans turned the budget around but unfortunately lost their way after Bush got elected - which is why I voted for Kerrry), state and local taxes have increased substantially - city income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, meals taxes, hotel taxes, jet fuel taxes, exise taxes, rental car taxes etc. etc. etc. - many of which barely existed if they existed at all in 1960). Government as a percentage of the economy has grown enormously and like what they do or not - we can't afford it.

As for the "it's all Bush's fault" argument - you might enjoy reading the following

http://keithhennessey.com/2010/02/04/need-future-f...

Summary - while Bush may have been far from perfect, time has blinded us to some of the challenges he faced early in his administration and there's nobody on the other side that's done much to fix things in the interim.

To the original point - a middle class family that wants to live like it was 1960 can live just fine in JP and own a house on $75k per year. Assuming you spend 30% of income on housing - after taking out $4000 for taxes and insurance, you can afford about a $300k mortgage (30 years at 4.5%) and with a downpayment that's a home in the $350-375k range.

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Stevil

There aren't many homes in JP in that range (350K-375K)

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Bullpucky

By on

So a middle class family is making almost twice as much after inflation - but can't afford to buy a house - salaries do not seem to be the problem

Graph of US Income Distribution from 1967-2003

The 50th percentile is barely making 30% more than it did in the mid-60s.

The only people making nearly 2x more today than they were in the 50s and 60s are the top 90th percentile.

Salaries (and especially benefits on top of base salaries) have stagnated over the past 50 years while the companies continue to turn and churn greater profits and fire skilled labor to reduce costs through outsourcing and modernization.

Don't peddle that "salaries aren't the problem" bullshit around here. People wouldn't be turning to credit and debt as a financial tool to maintain their lifestyles if "salaries weren't a problem" or if all boats rose with the richy-rich tide in this country.

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People were more conservative back then though.

We spend a lot of money on some crazy ish these days, although a lot of the good stuff isn't that expensive when you compare them. Remember how much VCRs and TVs cost? Or when cell phones first came out?

If you get full cable, cell phone with internet, New flatscreen with DVD and CD player, Wi, etc for about 2K a year. That 2K a year isn't going to put a dent in any mortgage rate or payment on your average Boston housing cost.

And we forget about real estate prices, that is what this whole thing is about. if the 50% salary in 1975 is 38K (which still seems high to me), you could buy a nice house in a nice town for almost 2X your yearly salary. Now Id say it would be about 4-8X that amount.

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Yup

By on

People fail to realize the important things have inflated way beyond where they were historically. While the distractions are cheap and have deflated.

They still might be status symbols, but iPods, laptops and cellphones are dirt cheap.

Healthcare, Housing, Education, Transportation; all have appreciated way beyond where wages can support them.

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Uhh - Kaz

By on

Your data starts in 1967 - I'm using 1960 as a reference for the 50's and 60's. It also continues only until 2003. You are missing 15 years of data, including critical early data from 1960-1967 when poswar real wages were growing rapidly. Also - you are looking at national salaries - not local salaries - Boston has fared much better than the rest of the country in income - which is part of what drives housing costs around here. Add in the fact that for that modern middle class lifestyle you DO have a lot of dual income houses that's also going to drive up the cost of housing.

I repeat - salaries - at least around Boston relative to 1960 are not the problem in maintaining a middle class lifestyle - except for the fact that a middle class lifestyle would be fairly luxurious by 1960 standards.

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