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Non-profit groups propose 40 apartments and condos near Morton Street train station

Morton Station proposal

Archictect's rendering.

Two non-profit groups have filed plans with the BPDA for a 31-unit apartment building where the B-3 police station used to be on Morton Street next to the bridge over the train tracks and 9 condos nearby on Hopkins Street, which will be next to the Stephen P. Odom Serenity Garden the city is planning in memory of the teenager shot to death in 2007.

The Caribbean Integration Community Development and the Planning Office for Urban Affairs say the 31 apartments will be rented to people making between 30 and 100% of the Boston area median income, while the condos will be deed restricted to people making between 80% and 100% of the area median income. Artists will be given initial preference for three or four of the apartments.

The $19.1-million proposal calls for 30 parking spaces.

In honor the memory of Steven P. Odom, who was murdered in a 2007 senseless act of violence, a Serenity Garden of approximately 8,000 square feet will be built on a parcel that is to be subdivided from the Proposed Development and which is being designed to encourage peaceful gatherings and opportunities for local youth to participate in activities and recreation, to be used in conjunction with the Proposed Development’s community room. The Garden is expected to include areas for quiet reflection and contemplation, community gatherings and conversations, and active youth engagement and is being further designed through the City of Boston’s Parks Department.

The city Department of Neighborhood Development awarded the two groups the land for the development after the long abandoned B-3 station was torn down in 2013.

Morton Station Village small-project review application (7.8M PDF).

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Comments

“30 parking spaces for something so close to the MBTA?”
Finally a developer who doesn’t sling the transit oriented BS.

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I hear you whining.

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Do you live near Mattapan? Do you live in Boston? Do you drive a vehicle? ‘Nuff said.

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is that is shook out just like anon's original post...very next comment in fact. This place is either way too predictable of various sock-puppets are at play.

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Fairmount service is garbage. Old locomotive trains trying to make local stops while avoiding five+ bypass trains is crap. One thing Pressley can do right from the start is look at the bypass train traffic inequality. The Fairmount handles far too much bypass train traffic compared to the Worcester, Providence, and Lowell lines. Its time to evenly distribute the bypass burden.

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For something so close to the MBTA?

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Yes.

Off-street parking.

So their cars aren't clogging anything up on the street when they're home or using the T.

Because sometimes people have to go places that aren't possible to get to on the T.

Because sometimes people have to go places that aren't convenient to get to on the T in any sort of reasonable time.

Because sometimes people already own cars.

Because living on the T could be useful for 2 or 3 people in a household to get to school/work while one person still needs the car for their work (and improves the whole transportation scenario by not having to take the car out on little shuttle trips to drop off or pick up the others)

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$19.1M for 40 units translates into $478k per unit. I'm not blaming the developers, but something is wrong if this is what it costs to build a unit of housing in this town. I'm assuming they got the land for free or well below market rate. I'm also guessing that since these are affordable units they're not using high end finishes, expensive appliances, etc.

I would love some insight from someone in the industry into what's driving these costs and how we compare to places where housing is more affordable.

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All 30 parking spaces are within the building, at about $25k/space = $750k.
Parking minimums really do contribute to the high cost of housing.

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Building costs money. In other parts of the country, labor costs less because housing costs less. Houses cost less because land is cheap. Houses cost less because the construction is crackerbox - even in NH, it can be very poor and developer can *forget* to add insulation. A lot of houses in "cheap" places don't even have heating systems!

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If that's the true cost just to build a modest unit of housing with free land, we're never going to see any unsubsidized units below that, or even at that. And that number is still unaffordable for a huge percentage of the population. It means that a developer who pays for land can't possibly make a profit at anything below about $650k per unit, anywhere in the city.

I want to believe that of we build enough housing, unsubsidized prices will inevitably come down to something closer to affordable for people making a middle class wage. This makes me wonder if there is any amount of housing they will get us there.

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Land around here is expensive. Even in lower income or blighted areas.

The approvals process can be long and byzantine. Lawyers and consultants cost money. Redesigns cost money.

Prevalence of union labor makes labor costs drastically more expensive. Even without using union labor, there is lots of work, so labor rates are less competitive.

Again, the construction market is almost completely saturated. Most contractors and subcontractors have plenty of work, so their bids are much higher than if they were really competing to get jobs.

As the above poster said, structured parking is a massive expense.

Tariffs are also driving steel and aluminum prices up.

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But don't forget that MA has prevailing wages for public projects. Does this one follow that?

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The city subsidizes units of low income housing by giving the property to nonprofit developers free or at very low cost. That's why this seems high.

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They call it 'Total development cost' in the filing. My take on that language is that $19.1M is all in project cost. Beyond construction there are a number of line items owners and developers need to keep in mind and account for:

  • Pre-Design geotechnical work
  • Design fees
  • Construction Services fees (the design firms oversee the work, reviewing that it conforms and possibly a resident engineer)
  • Legal fees
  • Permitting costs
  • Environmental requirements (such as hazardous testing, permitting, and any potential cleanup)
  • Marketing/printing & advertising (tied to Community meetings)
  • Police and/or fire details
  • FF&E (fixtures, furniture, & equipment - not always under the jurisdiction of the contractor, sometimes owner-supplied)
  • Construction contingency costs for unforseen conditions and/or change orders. This number is typically a % of the construction costs.
  • Construction - or the contractor's bid price.

And as people have already mentioned, construction is expensive. We are also experiencing a shortage of workers here in the Boston area. Companies are having people flown in from other states to help cover the needs here and it's still not enough.

It's hard work, but I encourage parents to encourage their kids to consider going into the trades. It's a good living, especially here in the Northeast.

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What I'm surprised by is the total dollar amount. All of those costs seem normal for a project like this. I had thought that the total development cost was in the range of $200/sf for new construction, not including land acquisition, and that it dipped below that on larger projects thanks to economies of scale. Not sure what the total square footage is but an estimate of 1600 sf average is probably generous. That puts this at $300/sf, again with free or deeply discounted land.

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Demand for non-luxury housing is huge. Almost none is being built. The real estate industry loves the tight market. Home owners love the it. It's extremely expensive to build. Zoning is a huge issue.

And does anyone doubt tbose with 'connections' will get those affordable units?

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Higher prices mean higher real estate taxes. Our ancient housing stock means higher utilities and maintenance, and you've got to live somewhere so unless you leave the area it is just big money on paper.

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Artists will be given initial preference for three or four of the apartments.

And that's legal? If a landlord can discriminate on the basis of profession, that would certainly make life much easier for them. Just choose professions that don't include a lot of troublemakers. Or the 'wrong kind' of people.

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Apparently Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) allow for this, although it is continuously being challenged.

Part of the project's financing is looking into LIHTC. The request for Artist preference may have come from one of the 7 community meetings the developers held.

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Remember that 4 students/apartment rule?

That's occupation discrimination, too.

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