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BRA approves mixed-use building in JP that would include an 'affordable' commercial unit

The BRA board today approved a proposed 40-unit condo project at Washington Street and Montebello Road that will include seven condos sold at below-market costs - and commercial space that will also be offered at below market rates.

Developers say both types of affordable units will help JP with its pressing affordability and jobs issues. City requirements called for 13% affordable housing units - the seven represents 17.5%. Developers acknowledged neighborhood groups wanted at least 25% affordable units but said there was no way they could do that and still make any money.

Separately, the BRA board also approved construction of 44 affordable apartments at 25 Amory St. and 100 apartments - 28 of them affordable - at 250 Centre St., both in Jamaica Plain.

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To repeat myself (shocker, I know), in Roslindale there is a below market block owned by the model railroad folks where long term retailers like Rossman, Birch St and the flower shop are set up. So they can much more easily stay in business than the folks like Kitchen Central who rent at 'market rates' If there is a new space being developed with affordable commercial space, that would be a neat way for a more offbeat or unusual store to succeed.

Unfortunately, there's not any good way to do this with existing commercial spaces that doesn't involve the city essentially taking a private landlord's money away (rent limits) or, probably worse, paying them to subsidize the rent paid by a commercial tenant. But with a new space, the idea is worth considering although you'd have to somehow guard against hurting existing local businesses who don't have an advantageous lease.

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The city could choose to charge an 'unoccupied' tax to landlords who raise rents to a "market rate" that their local market doesn't actually support, driving out businesses and leaving their units empty and waiting for a bank/corporate tenant. COUGH COUGH CORINTH STREET. I guess that counts as taking money away from them, though.

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How do you determine what the local market can support on Cornith St? It's a chicken/egg problem among other things.

Solera and the Cheese Shop stay open so clearly a business can survive the higher rates charged by that major landlord..Are you saying that if someone has an idea for a store which isn't as profitable, suddenly the landlord has to get let money?

For example, I don't doubt Kitchen Central was hurt by high rents but that doesn't mean it was a viable business idea unfortunately. Roslindale just doesn't have *that* much foot traffic outside of Saturday mornings and weekend evenings. Sad but true.

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You're probably right that there's no realistic way to quantify it, but still. Uhub has reported on businesses who straight up say they're getting driven out by rent increases (the taco place, the furniture store said on facebook they're leaving because of rent, one of the admittedly multiple barber shops...)

Maybe the reason there's not a ton of foot traffic is there's not a lot to do that isn't satisfied by a once-weekly Saturday morning shopping trip.

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....for 105A Huntington, the interestingly named Serenity condoplex that got approved without any affordable units on site?

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If we're all conditioned to say lowercase "affordable" now, and refuse to at least capitalize it when we mean the special politician newspeak sense of the term, does that have impair our ability to reason about the topic, in some linguistic-cognitive kind of way?

I'm not against government intervention, subsidies, safety nets, etc. in principle. I'm against public understanding and dialogue about a topic being sabotaged by politicians.

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Affordable housing is an absurd term. I realize that the implication is housing that is affordable for people making a certain amount of money. But the term is bandied about without identifying in the same sentence what income is represented. What income level is referenced by the term is not common knowledge and so is a poor term for communicating information. Worse at its literal meaning all housing is affordable and so without the assumption that there is an implicit reference to an economic class the term is confusing.

Newspeak poisons the mind of the body politic. It defuses, blurs and removes the uncomfortable truth of problems by smoothing over them with anodyne words.

Thinking about this more is there an implicit reference to class in the term affordable housing? Not poor since poor equals Section 8 and other forms of government subsidized housing. Perhaps what used to be called blue collar or working class? It's a weak term. A more precise and clearer term is needed.

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I don't know if there already is a nomenclature system for different levels of affordability but let's propose one:
Affordable A is a "reasonable" rent/price for families from a% to b% of area median income. Affordable B is the next higher non-overlapping range of income. Continue this until the range of "affordable" is covered.

Then, when a development is proposed, it should be described as, for example, 20 Affordable B units and 25 Affordable C units.

Then the government entity knows what is being proposed and prospective buyers and renters will know whether they have a chance of living there.

Also require the media to use those terms when writing about the development, so the public can ascertain whether the developer is doing a good deed or not so much. Maybe putting a requirement like this on the media may not be feasible.

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How about if we just call them "subsidized" since that's basically what they are. In this case the subsidy is in the form of one tenant paying to lower the rent of another. And perhaps a less loaded alternative might be "below market rate."

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Unless they have restrictions like real affordable housing, then it's just market rate housing.

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'affordable' housing in and around Boston is the excessive regulations, laws that restrict construction, including simple things like single occupancy units (rooming houses), which are basically banned in this part of the country. Another reason is politicians cater to campaign contributors, and small and large real estate owners are near the top of this list; it's in most cases in their $interests$ to maintain a tight market.

Snob zoning is a big issue in nearby cities like Brookline.

We end up with public housing and sectiin 8 for 'poor' people, and expensive market rate for everyone else.

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