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Housing analysis needed before action called for, promised in PLAN Dudley

Jule Pattison-Gordon

On Monday morning, City Councilor Tito Jackson fired off a letter to the director of the Boston Planning and Development Agency, calling for a halt to final development plans and city-issued requests for proposals in Dudley Square, pending an in-depth housing analysis.

PLAN Dudley held its last scheduled public session on Monday night, with a meeting on plan’s draft urban design and development guidelines and a workshop on implementation.

Jackson says it is crucial that the city’s PLAN Dudley be guided by research on how development could impact housing in the area, and that moving ahead without it risks displacing current residents.

“It seems to me that development is what drives planning in Roxbury, rather than actual planning driving development,” Jackson told the Banner in a phone interview.

In his letter, Jackson also questions why PLAN JP/Rox featured a housing study, but not PLAN Dudley.

On the horizon

City officials say Monday’s meeting is not necessarily the end of the conversation.

John Barros, city chief of economic development, told the Banner that a summary of the planning process and recommendations for moving forward will be presented at the next Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee meeting. Depending on the committee’s response, official may hold more working sessions or proceed to draft RFPs.

Lara Mereida, the city’s deputy director of community planning, said in a Banner phone interview that while there are no solid deadlines for issuing RFPs, the city would like to do so in 2017, ideally by spring, in order to take advantage of a hot development market.

Housing study

The average individual income in the neighborhood is $33,000 and rents have been rising untenably, with residents already displaced, Jackson warned. An effective housing study, he wrote, should present information on race; household size and income; homeownership; rental unit types; public, subsidized and deed-restricted housing; number of current and planned units by type; affordable housing production and land usage. Important as well: a map of all public, vacant and underutilized land. Jackson also sought information on which developers had created affordable housing in area over the last 15 years, along with their funding sources and amounts, land costs, the project’s unit counts and the income levels served.

City officials seemed amenable to Jackson’s request.

Mereida said that the Dudley Square community seemed especially concerned about jobs, thus PLAN Dudley has focused strongly on workforce and economic development. But, she said, housing has been part of the conversation.

Tim Davis, city’s housing policy manager, told the Banner that research similar to what Jackson requested currently is underway. Barros said a housing analysis was completed at the start of PLAN Dudley, and that a report on it will be prepared and provided to the councilor and oversight committee.

Barros said the study revealed a high percentage of affordable housing in the area, but said that conversations have not yet reflected what is needed, going forward.

Davis said thus far, housing planning ideas are exploratory. One item under consideration: expanding inclusionary development requirements to request as well affordable commercial space or additional affordable housing units.

Larger Roxbury

Jackson further advocated for a comprehensive housing plan for all of Roxbury, and critiqued the BPDA decision to create PLAN JP/Rox and PLAN Dudley as separate processes for areas in such close proximity. Mereida said taking a unified look at whole neighborhood would be a large undertaking and that it is standard and more feasible to divide planning into key focus areas.