To date in this year’s Boston municipal elections, I have not heard enough from any of the candidates — whether for mayor, for at-large seats on the City Council or for district Council seats — on the issue of real housing opportunities for poor and working families. Things are better than they once were, but we still have a long road to travel.
I am impressed with the visible signs of a housing rebirth I see as I travel along Morton Street, as well as the new housing opportunities that have opened up on the grounds of the former Boston State Hospital. This land remained vacant for far too long, and it is a positive sign when you see housing construction taking place where weeds grew for a long period of time.
I grew up in the South End and lower Roxbury. Much of lower Roxbury still has too many vacant parcels of land, and much of the South End is now gentrified and unattainable by working people of modest means.
This housing issue is not just a Boston problem, but is national in scope. If you travel across the nation’s larger cities, you’ll see similar issues surrounding the rebirth of tired neighborhoods. I remember back in the ’70s and ’80s, when Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan used the South Bronx as a site for photo ops about cities gone bad. They stood in that neighborhood, looking very presidential as they pointed to a broken block called Charlotte Street in the South Bronx and said they could do better.
Eventually, the area did have a rebirth. The whole neighborhood, which once looked like the giant hole in Downtown Crossing, was reborn, gentrified and priced out of the reach of poor and working families.
Politicians, slogans, sound bites — all of these things come and go. But solutions to pressing issues like real housing for people who need it never quite seem to come as we’d hoped. The urban gentry, who wouldn’t have given two cents for property in the South Bronx 40 years ago, now see the place as a goldmine for them. I have nothing against the gentrification of battered neighborhoods, but I would like to see more housing opportunities for ordinary working people looking for a piece of the American pie for themselves and their children.
We could use more fresh approaches to running government. Think about all that on Tuesday, Nov. 3, and vote accordingly.