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Large Dorchester Avenue project approved in contentious meeting

Dot Block

The BPDA board today approved changes to the four-acre Dot Block project to add more apartments - with less parking - at a meeting at which BPDA officials acknowledged that protesting Dorchester residents have a point about displacement in the surrounding area, even if they disagreed that Dot Block has anything to do with that.

Under the revised plans for the roughly $200-million project, Dot Block, in the area bounded by Dorchester Avenue and Hancock, Pleasant and Greenmount streets, developers Samuels and Associates and Wintergold, LLC said they would build 488 housing units in four buildings - up from the 362 originally approved for the site. The revised plans also call for a 345-space underground garage - compared to the original plans for a 450-space, five-story above-ground garage. The complex will also have about 30,000 square feet of neighborhood-focused retail space, and more than an acre of public space.

The project does not directly displace any residents because it would be built on a site now occupied by little used warehouses, Samuels Vice President Abe Menzin said. He and BPDA staffers said some 66 units will be rented as affordable - and that half of those will be units for which people living within three-quarters of a mile of the site would get priority.

But protesters from Dorchester Not For Sale, who packed the BPDA board room loudly disagreed that the project would not lead to displacement in the surrounding blocks - to the point that BPDA board Chairman Timothy Burke repeatedly hit his gavel on a table, ordered one woman to leave the room altogether and threatened to have officers remove more people.

BPDA protesters

Menzin acknowledged displacement is happening in Fields Corner, about a mile away, but said his team tried to deal with that by boosting the total number of units so as to increase the number of affordable units that would be economically feasible.

Viktorija Abolina, the BPDA's assistant deputy director for neighborhood planning, said the agency is working on figuring out how to increase affordable housing in roughly 100 acres of the Glover's Corner area, because roughly 73% of the area's residents are renters and because more than half of those face challenges already making their rent.

Dorchester Not For Sale's "concerns are very valid," she said.

She said part of the answer is development such as Dot Block, which city regulations would require to set aside at least 13% of their units as affordable. But she continued, "we cannot be relying on private development providing all affordable housing required," and planners are looking at other possibilities involving existing city programs and funds to create "more deeply affordable" housing in the area.

Board member Michael Moynihan - who is also business manager of Local 103 of the IBEW - told protesters to "pipe down, will ya?" and said he thinks the new Dot Block project is "a great project."

"I can see the project from my window, he said, thanking the developers for "coming into the neighborhood and building it."

Dot Block filings with the BPDA.

Free tagging: 


Is there ANY chance that they will take advantage of the opportunity afforded by this big chunk of empty land to realign local streets?
Bring Hancock to a T intersection with Dot Ave opposite Burger King, and bring Freeport to more of a T intersection, too - get rid of the current angled six-way intersection at the former Sunoco. The rebuild there was nice for a while, but the illegal turns are increasing and sooner or later somebody will get killed.

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Adding supply does not make our housing crunch worse. The only two things we can do are increase supply or reduce demand. And we really, really don't want to reduce demand (aka, Boston from 1950-1980, or present day Fitchburg, etc.).

If you are worried about rising home prices, then you need to ask for even more development like this. We need every vacant lot to be filled. We need to get over our parking addiction. We need as many units as possible to help meet the demand.

These projects help keep prices for the rest of us down. Stop fighting them.

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Increasing supply by increasing desirability of a neighborhood can definitely increase the price for existing renters and landlords/homeowners who have to deal with increased tax assessments. Gentrifying neighborhoods lost low-cost units at nearly five times the rate of nongentrifying neighborhoods.

It may not make the housing crunch worse for you, but it will definitely increase the housing crunch for the working poor and displace them. Also, increasing supply doesn't always decrease price: Federal Reserve: New Supply Won't Lower Housing Prices in Expensive Markets.

Incidentally, I live in Dorchester. I'm not a NIMBY, but I do prefer my housing development plans to adequately address fears of displacement. Ideally with more units that are actually affordable to existing Dorchester families.

With federal subsidies, there are private developments in Dorchester that have managed 60% affordable units, not the paltry ~13% Dot Block has to do to comply with Boston's inclusionary development policy. There are non-profit developers in Dorchester that have managed 100% affordable projects on private land.

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A few things.
Dot Block sits between two of the most expensive neighborhoods in Dorchester - Jones Hill and Savin Hill. I’d argue that the gentrification train has left the station there in 2013 (largely due to under supply near a redline station).

Those non-profit developers doing 60% are largely responsible for the rapid gentrification of Ashmont/Peabody Sq. An area where only 10 years ago you could find a deleaded apartment with 2-3 bedrooms for $1300-$1400/mo literally next to Ashmont T. Now it is $2200/mo for the same unit.

Where are the non-profits developing 100% affordable?

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All apartments will be affordable to households with incomes at or below 60% of Area Median Income (AMI) and eleven (11) will be affordable to households at or below 30% of AMI.

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I didn't realize they were still in the development game, there has been a lot of churn there. Is this built yet, it's been a few months since I've been down that end of Bowdoin.

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Thanks for the post. It seems self-evident that affordable housing is reduced most rapidly in gentrifying neighborhoods.

The 2nd article on demand elasticity is interesting but I conclude only that the scale of supply needed to alter market equilibrium is significant, not that new supply isn't a critical part of the solution. Some number of new units may not meaningfully change prices at the margin, but eventually new development will reach an inflection point.

The alternative, improving amenities in less desirable neighborhoods, does help defray demand and keep prices in check but I assume this path would just shift the upward price pressure to those newly-accessible areas. It certainly could be a better solution overall, though...if city leaders were willing to spend the money and political capital to do it.

A recent post on Uhub about rent control led me to a Freakonomics podcost on the topic. One recommendation that stood out was to simplify the "rules" for development and make them transparent upfront. The cost and uncertainty of one-off approvals and community meetings make it that much harder for lower-priced developments to make financial sense.

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While I appreciate your providing citations, neither of those studies prove your point.

The Philadelphia Fed study focused on the effects of gentrification, not new construction. They define gentrification as follows: To be eligible to gentrify: Census tract must have had a median household income below the citywide median in 2000. To be classified as gentrifying: Tract must be eligible to gentrify, and must have experienced both an above citywide median increase in share of college-educated residents between 2000 and 2009–2013, and an above citywide median increase in either median gross rent or median home value over the 2000–2013 period.

Note the absence of any indicators related to new construction. As a result, the study makes no conclusions about the effect of new construction on housing prices or displacement. The important factors that are documented include loss of rental units to condo conversion and the loss of deed restricted units with expiring affordability use restrictions, both of which, I would posit, are forces that can are mitigated, not worsened, by the introduction or more rental stock with an affordability component.

The other paper by Anenburg and Kung is thought provoking, but is a simulation model with so many caveats it is hard to determine its applicability here. For example, the city is treated as a closed system in which households move neither in nor out, there is little differentiation in the attractiveness fo neighborhoods for different groups, and finally "Thus, we caution against extrapolating our model’s elasticities to very large changes to the housing stock," and very large changes to the city's housing stock is exactly the Mayor's strategy which anti-development advocates are trying to undermine.

For a more comprehensive review of literature related to the effects of supply, please see Been, et. al http://www.law.nyu.edu/sites/default/files/Been%20Ellen%20O%27Regan%20su.... They search the literature for evidence to address the concerns that new supply worsens conditions for existing low income residents and find:

"Many of the arguments are plausible, and we take them seriously, but we ultimately conclude, from both theory and empirical evidence, that adding new homes moderates price increases and therefore makes housing more affordable to low and moderate income families. Moderating prices does not mean prices won’t rise at all; but they won’t rise as much as they would otherwise."

Importantly, they also conclude that "Adding new market-rate units will not generally address the housing needs of very low income households. Thus, it is critical to provide housing at different price points through inclusionary zoning, subsidies, or other tools for ensuring that communities remain (or become) economically diverse as they grow."

This finding suggests those concerned about the plight of low0income households should spend less time fighting projects like DOT Block from happening at all, and spend more time figuring out how to raise the affordability requirements, get more state and federal funding for subsidized units, protect units with expiring affordability restrictions, and improving the region's transportation system so that more affordable neighborhoods can provide better opportunity for their residents.

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Wait, 60% inclusionary units, or the inclusionary units affordable at 60% AMI?

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It makes one wonder what the protesters’ motives are when they don’t stay to also protest the other development presented at the meeting for Dorchester Ave. The one with 59 fewer affordable units in a more rapidly gentrifying location.

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Just like Ink Block, most of these will go straight to Airbnb, Flipkey, VRBO...



Only 2 examples, out of hundreds, of larger development's units going to short term rental use, and keeping rents artificially inflated. These protestors are right to be concerned. More units used to help cool rents, this sharing is caring economy wrecked that for us, especially with housing.

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Why didn't anyone tell me I have the best place in the City????

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I was at the hearing and found it incongruous that the DNFS crowd kept shouting about displacement at the DotBlock site when no one lives on the site now. Yet, the next agenda item that none of them stayed for to protest displacement...http://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/1970-dorchester actually would displace people since existing housing is being demolished.

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I agree something stinks about their argument. The only project, out of the countless hearings I’ve been at, that I’ve seen them oppose in force is DotBlock and the rezoning of Glover’s Corner Is some developer that wants this land paying them?

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Is it really that incongruous?

Well, I mean, yes... there is a disconnect. There is inconsistency. What I mean is that it isn't uncommon or surprising.

Even in my limited experience of direct involvement with preservation/BPDA/ZBA cases, I've seen it. I think it comes from any of three things (sometimes more than one at the same time).

- Myopia and/or attention span issues. Sometimes that is in combination with being, ummm.... easily stirred up by someone with an agenda.
- asserting their power, for the sake of asserting power.
- the interest in "sticking it to" one party in one case, and the point of contention is just cover

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There was an entire half street, Greenmount, razed of triple Decker's. No one remembers that? Yeah no one living there now cause they were kicked out over a year ago.

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We saw the same kind of activist histrionics in Plan JP/Rox. There, activists were able to bend the elected officials enough to put in place a plan mandating such a high percentage of 'affordable' units in private development that it effectively put a stop to almost all new construction in the plan area. That of course just leads to fewer new 'affordable' units overall. It's almost like that's the actual goal of these activist groups but they won't come right out and say it - to stop all new construction.

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13% is a joke.

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If you operated a business, what percent of your inventory would you sell for below the market value?

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But everyone else must sell at least 80% because I said so!

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Thank God that part of dot ave a black hole for 40 yrs.

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