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More than 700 applications for 39 affordable units

Madison Melnea Cass Apartments under construction in Lower Roxbury

Karen Morales
More than 700 applications for 39 affordable units
Madison Melnea Cass Apartments will include units for former tenants of the nearby Whittier Street housing development. PHOTO: KAREN MORALES

Housing seekers are applying in droves to be entered in a lottery for 39 income-restricted units at Madison Melnea Cass Apartments, a project by Madison Park Development Corporation, as they battle rising rents in Boston.

Located at the corner of Raynor Circle and Melnea Cass Boulevard, the construction project includes a four-story, 16-unit building and a five-story, 60-unit building at the corner of Melnea Cass Boulevard. The project is being developed in partnership with the Boston Housing Authority and Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc., as part of the Choice Neighborhood Initiative, a HUD program that helps redevelop public housing.

According to Sophia Transtamar, project manager at MPDC, there are 76 income-restricted units total at the apartments but 33 of them are being set aside as replacement units for former Whittier Street Housing Development residents.

As of last Wednesday, at an information session in the South End for interested applicants, Transtamar estimated that there were more than 700 applicants for the 39 units, a number which is sure to go up before the application deadline on Feb. 13.

Affordability is based on household income compared to the area median income, or AMI, as calculated by HUD. Of the 39 affordable units available, there are: two one-bedroom units for 60 percent AMI households; nine two-bedroom units for 60 percent AMI households; nine three-bedroom units for 60 percent AMI households; 10 two-bedroom units for 100 percent AMI households; and 9 three-bedroom units for 100 percent AMI households. Monthly gross rent ranges from $1,213 to $2,523.

According to HUD standards, 60 percent AMI is $45,300 a year for a one-person household and $58,260 a year for a three-person household.

Rent burdened

Louisa Castillo has lived in Boston her whole life but moved to Randolph three years ago with her husband and son. She went to last week’s informational session to fill out an application for Madison Melnea Cass Apartments in hopes of moving back to the city.

“When I first moved to Randolph, it was $1,800 for a two-bedroom. Now it’s $1,900. I don’t know what to do,” said Castillo. “We’re paying more than 40 percent of our income.”

Thomas Ganzales is a 54-year-old from Boston and is currently living in a shelter after moving out from an apartment he shared with his wife. Ganzales said he chose to go into a shelter in July and is going through a job training and house assistance program, run by the Boston Health Commission, that helped him get a part-time job at TD Garden.

But his income isn’t enough to be considered for affordable housing units, including Madison Melnea Cass Apartments. “I have a pile of letters saying I’m not eligible, or this is beyond your income, from other housing developments. I’ve applied to four,” said Ganzales.

With his part-time job and disability benefits, Ganzales said his monthly income is about $1,600. “I applied for Section 8 too, that’s another waiting list,” he said.

Rodney Gerald and his wife were paying $1,800 for their housing but moved out when their landlord started asking for $2,200 a month. He said they are renting a room for now, but would like a bigger space.

Gerald applied for Section 8 housing with Metro Housing Boston recently and was told he would have to wait at least a year to hear back.

“Boston is great, it’s just too expensive,” he said. “I’d love to stay here, but I can’t afford it.”

Transtamar said that the new apartments will be completed in the summer of 2019, and the Boston Office of Fair Housing and Equity will be conducting the lottery to determine who will be moving in by that date.

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