City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson (Roxbury) today proposed a halt on any further sales of city-owned vacant land in Roxbury for development until neighborhood residents get more of a say on what gets built on it before any RFPs to developers are published.
The council took no action on her proposal at its meeting today, instead sending it to a planning and development committee, chaired by Frank Baker (Dorchester) for a public hearing first.
Fernandes Anderson predicted residents would want anything other than affordable housing - of the sort the city has been promoting on numerous parking lots and other empty land in Nubian Square in recent years.
She told city councilors today that 54% of the apartments in Roxbury are already income-restricted, compared to 19.2% citywide and between 6% and 8% in Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, the North End, the South Boston waterfront and Hyde Park. It's time those neighborhoods in particular did their share to support people who could not otherwise afford to live in them, she said.
"There is no denying low-income rental housing is needed in our city. but it is not needed in Roxbury," she said. Continuing to funnel such apartments into Roxbury only solidifies its role as a city message to the neighborhood that "you must remain impoverished," she said.
What Roxbury really needs now, she said, is more development of affordable condos and houses, so that residents can begin to build generational wealth, as well as such things as arts, culture, recreation, playgrounds and trees. Her comments come the week after the Zoning Board of Appeal approved two new Nubian Square projects with significant art and cultural components.
But that can only happen if residents have a seat at the table when officials are even thinking about selling off more public land, she said.
City Councilor Kendra Lara (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), who co-sponsored the measure, said it's past time for residents to have a say before they're presented with a fait accompli in the form of a developer's plan that resulted from an RFP issued without local input.
Fernandes Anderson's comments drew support from at-large City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who said they reminded him of a similar battle he and other South Boston elected officials and residents unsuccessfully waged against plans by the Menino administration and the BRA to turn the parking lots of the South Boston waterfront into today's Seaport.
At every step, Flaherty said, South Boston was rebuffed in its attempts to get more affordable housing built on the waterfront - and in efforts to get the city to include such things as a school, a library and police and fire stations.
The result? "It almost kind of feels like you're in New York," not a Boston neighborhood, he said.