The Boston Foundation has long worked on housing, and views this issue through a wide-angle lens: "Affordable housing is a building block of vibrant communities," TBF says.
More than ever, though, that building block is under pressure in Boston, as it is in many other U.S. cities that are home to large numbers of affluent professionals who are pushing into, and gentrifying, new urban territory.
One organization on the front lines of the fight for affordability is the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC), which works in a neighborhood where folks of lesser means have long been getting priced out, with the heat now rising.
So it makes sense that in June, the Boston Foundation gave SCC a boost with a $75,000 grant that aims to keep Somerville stable and preserve affordable housing for “vulnerable populations.”
As pricey as Somerville has become, things are sure to get worse down the line—the Green Line, that is, which is extending to Somerville as Boston's mass transit system continues to grow. Somerville will soon become accessible to downtown Boston in a “one-seat” ride. While there is nothing better than a quick commute, the downside of this often means displacement for low and moderate income folks along the path of a new, speedy train service.
In fact, Boston has seen this movie before: Prices rose sharply in Jamaica Plain after the Orange Line came through some years back.
The Somerville Community Corporation has been thinking about the affordability challenges posed by the Green Line for a while now, commisioning a report that came out earlier this year that projects how many people might be displaced as the neighborhood becomes more commuter-friendly.
It isn't a pretty picture, and one conclusion of the report notes that steps to preserve affordability need be taken now, before the Green Line arrives. Later, when the commuters come in and real estate prices start soaring, the fight will become more difficult.
The data and insights of the report offered the basis for a battle plan by the SCC and other groups. Funds from the Boston Foundation provide a nice boost for the organization as it steps up that work.