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星期五, 5月 13, 2016

Egleston-based Youth of Color Lead Multiracial, Multigenerational Disruption of BRA Rezoning Meeting


Egleston-based Youth of Color Lead Multiracial, Multigenerational Disruption of BRA Rezoning Meeting

Crowd of 75 residents demands 70% total affordability within upcoming Washington Corridor housing stock and a 3-month moratorium on vote on JP/Rox plan

May 11th, 2016 - Youth from Egleston Square, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury led an energetic disruption of the Boston Redevelopment Authority's "Plan JP/Rox" rezoning meeting, demanding greater affordability within total new housing construction and additional time for the community process. 

75 residents - a mix of renters joined in solidarity by homeowners - presented two main demands to the BRA. First, they called for 70% of new construction in the planning area (known as the "Washington Corridor", stretching from Jackson Square to Forest Hills) be affordable for low- and moderate-income families who make up the majority of the area's current population. Second, they called for a 3-month moratorium on a July BRA board vote on the plan, so that the City could use July to October to better analyze and determine solutions for affordability in proposed new developments. The pause, activists say, would also allow the BRA greater time to work on prioritizing the perspectives of those most at risk of displacement in the planning zone.

Rita Paul, a Washington Corridor renter and member of the anti-displacement organization City Life/Vida Urbana has struggled against eviction for over a year. Paul said, "My home and my roots are here. There hasn't been a strong level of participation from the Latino community in this process. But we have to speak up before we are kicked out."

Paco Sanchez, a 17-year-old Egleston Square renter, said, "We're really trying to just get our voice out there. We're trying to let the BRA know that we're people too. People making $70,000 a year are who they are thinking about, but you shouldn't have to make $70,000 a year to be even considered."

While the group criticized the lack of real analysis and community input from the BRA in their Plan JP/Rox meetings, BRA staff members attempted to present parts of a draft plan at stations around the cafeteria at English High School. Protesters laid out a series of missing pieces to the BRA plan that they said must be addressed, including a detailed financial analysis, an analysis of multiple solutions for affordable housing that the group has previously given the BRA, a strong commitment of government funds for affordable housing in the area, and a racial impact analysis.

The group also approached Dana Whiteside from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, who committed to responding within a week to the request for an additional three months in the planning process.
The group used color-coded houses and posters to compare the neighborhood's current demographics with the BRA's plan. Seventy percent of households in the neighborhood make less than $75,000, so a policy of 70% affordability in the total of new housing stock protects the current diversity of the neighborhood. Community members have further divided the 70% to mirror how much income existing residents make:

  * 40% below $25,000
  * 10% from $25,000-$35,000
  * 10% from $35,000-$50,000
  * 5% from $50,000-$60,000
  * 5% from $60,000-$70,000

"About 50% of people in the neighborhood make less than $35,000," said Sanchez, "and having 70% affordable housing lets people who are getting displaced here (or were displaced from other neighborhoods) have a place to live."

The percentage for each of these income levels is within 2% of U.S. Census data obtained from the American Community Survey 2010-2014, using the census block groups that most closely match the study area.

In contrast, the BRA's proposal calls for thousands of new market-rate units with only 30% affordable housing and a small amount for lower-income families, accelerating gentrification and threatening the diversity of the neighborhood.

Protesters formed a large circle at the meeting, and organizers led a call-and-response statement to announce the demands. The protest ended with vibrant chants including "If we don't get it, shut it down!" and "I believe that we will win."

Wednesday's protest took place as a related campaign for "Just Cause" protections from eviction faces Boston's City Council this spring.

For more information on the Egleston-youth-lead campaign for housing justice, check out the campaign's Facebook page here.