Fighting to remain in Roxbury
My family has deep roots in Roxbury, but on my mother’s side my great-grandparents owned a beautiful brownstone on West Canton Street in the South End, which they bought in the 1920s. They escaped the Jim Crow South and came to Boston in search of opportunity. Today, a single unit in that brownstone is now worth well over $1 million dollars. Unfortunately, however, my family lost that house when the South End began to gentrify in the 1980s.
Gentrification and displacement are not new problems. People of color have been locked out and pushed out for decades. Deed restrictions, unfair lending practices, and discriminatory policies locked us out of economic opportunities. The ability to build and pass on an asset, such as a home, is vitally important to building generational wealth. Redlining was a racist federal policy that encouraged banks to offer homeownership loans in largely white areas, but made it incredibly difficult to buy a home and create wealth in communities of color.
One of the reasons why I ran for office to begin with is because we, as a community, are not benefiting from the economic growth in our city. We see development happening in our neighborhood and throughout Boston, but communities of color have been largely left out of it. There are several development projects in Dudley Square that are underway and in the pipeline, and we need to be able to make informed decisions on what is happening in our community. We must have a process that is much more open, inclusive and transparent.
Boston’s housing and gentrification crisis is on the rise throughout our neighborhoods. Roxbury has recently seen units listed for over $700,000. While there is no “silver bullet” for our housing problems, there are actions that we can and must take in order to ensure that we can remain in our community.
I’m fighting for affordable homeownership opportunities in our community that are accessible to people who live in Roxbury. We need to build homes that are truly affordable for Roxbury residents to buy and live in. Sometimes, there is a trade-off between a little bit more density and lower-cost units. Down-payment assistance programs can also help with this.
I’m fighting for new ways to raise revenue dedicated to creating and maintaining affordable housing. This could be through a vacancy tax on unoccupied housing units, or a luxury tax on condos that sell for over $1 million. More funds are needed for the city to invest in making housing more affordable.
I also want the city to increase the number of affordable housing units that developers are required to provide as part of building a market-rate project (known as “inclusionary development units”) and increase the fees on those who do not provide it as another means of raising funds for affordable housing.
Student housing is another factor that is driving up the cost of housing for long-term residents. I’m fighting to make sure that universities do their part and provide enough housing for their students, without taking over our neighborhoods. This particularly impacts neighborhoods like Roxbury that are in close proximity to colleges and universities.
The Jim Brooks Stabilization Act would have provided important data about no-fault evictions. But it has failed to pass at the State House. I am fortunate to have organizations like City Life/Vida Urbana, Right to the City, and others fighting against no-fault evictions and advocating alongside me.
Short-term rental companies are buying up buildings, evicting long-term tenants, and turning these buildings into de facto hotels. I have fought, along with several colleagues, to prohibit these investor units, while allowing those of us trying to stay in our homes to offer a spare room or owner-adjacent apartment for short-term rental.
These are complex and difficult challenges, but we must remain unified in our fight to stay in our community. We need housing for all of us, from low income, to moderate income, and some market rate options. We need to hold developers accountable for creating the right housing mix. As your City Councilor, I look forward to your continued engagement and advocacy as we continue the fight to remain in our community.
Kim Janey is the Boston city councilor for District 7.