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Feds award $20 million to rebuild Roslindale housing project

The Boston Housing Authority has won a $20 million grant to tear down the Washington-Beech project and turn it into a mixed-income townhouse neighborhood.

Under the grant, the BHA will replace the existing 266-unit series of apartment buildings with townhouses: 139 public-housing units and 126 affordable rental units. The redevelopment plan also includes money for 71 affordable homes for purchase. The BHA will pay for relocation of residents to other projects or Section 8 rental units during construction.

The grant is good news for nearby residents, who have watched the project become a center of gang-related violent and gun crime in recent months. Police blame this on an influx of new residents from Dorchester's Franklin Hill project, itself a violence-ridden complex that is nearing the end of its own reconstruction.

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A semi-serious question. Is the idea here that better surroundings will make better people, make them less likely to want to take out their frustrations violently on other people?

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Life in a long, dark building that basically says "PROJECT" has got to be different than living in a townhouse. But also, the townhouses mean lower density, give people more of a reason to take care of their units, etc. And the idea is to have market rental units and even some houses that the residents can buy.

Columbia Point, um, Harbor Point, is probably the best known example of this sort of conversion. You could probably even learn something from High Point Village (or whatever it is they call it these days), right next to Washington-Beech, although one lesson is that privately owned developments could kick all the poor people out and go market-rate.

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Mission Main ... er... those nice townhomes near Longwood.

By diluting the "totally poor" population with "working poor" and "middle income" and mixing owners and renters from all groups, the concentration of desperation is greatly reduced.

Folks also get a look at what it looks like to get up, go to work, go to school, etc. from others in their area. That gives people ideas.

That's one thing I could say for the trailer courts I grew up in - they were enough of an owner/renter mix that there were always people around who were working their way up and out. It is a lot easier to figure out how to do that if there are people around you who have the skillz.

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Those private owners kept the poor people for 25 years, as they agreed to. So now, when the 25 years is over, and they finally get to go market rate - as was planned from the beginning - should the government be able to go back on the deal? Imagine if you paid off your mortgage after 30 years, and the bank decided that you had to keep on making payments to them. Would you buy it? If the government wants to house poor people, then the government can pay for it. Why should this particular owner be responsible for Boston's poor?

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Another example is the demolition of Maverick Gardens in Eastie. The modern townhouses and other assorted residential buildings that took its place are a HUGE improvement from the prison-like project that existed there previously. It not only makes a difference to the people who live there, but it also positively affects everyone in the community. It's more than just a superficial change.

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Were the gangbangers displaced from Dorchester to Roslindale by the same process, to convert brick project housing into what is described above? I wonder how many other communities beside Roslindale are experiencing this rapid increase in gangbanger gun violence, standoffs and homcides, and how many more times gangbangers will be relocated from one project to another in order to redevelop the property.

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Developer plans to demolish, rebuild Franklin Hills housing - Boston Globe, 3/12/06.

Interesting question, dunno where else Franklin Hill residents went beside Washington-Beech.

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The Herald offers up an architectural rendering and additional details (such as how the city still has to come up with $80 million more).

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In addition to the HUD’s $20 million, the BHA expects to receive $26.6 million in city funds, $4.5 million in state funds and $40 million from private investors who purchase federally administered tax credits.

My question is this, do public fund sources like the $26.6 million from the city receive the same rate of return, dollar for dollar, as the $40 million privately raised or does OUR $26.6 million get no financial return whatsoever.

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So how much return are you getting on your money now when it goes into public housing? The whole point of private involvement is to cut some of your losses.

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