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Pols secure federal funds for Ausonia Apartments in North End

Avery Bleichfeld
Pols secure federal funds for Ausonia Apartments in North End
Boston Housing Authority Administrator Kate Bennett addresses reporters during a press conference announcing federal funding for Ausonia Apartments. PHOTO: JOHN WILCOX, MAYOR’S OFFICE

Local, state and federal officials gathered Monday at the Ausonia Apartments in the North End to celebrate the allocation of $1.75 million in federal funding to the apartments, a public housing complex for the elderly and people with disabilities. The funds will be used to renovate and update the building as well as improve the health and climate resilience of the building.

Officials highlighted the funding, obtained through congressionally directed spending that allows federal legislators to earmark funds for projects in their home districts, as an important investment to respond to climate change as well as address housing struggles more generally.

The Ausonia Apartments will receive two federal grants. A $750,000 grant is for updating and modernizing the 100 apartments in the community. Another, for $1 million, will be directed toward upgrades to improve air quality, reduce energy costs and increase climate resilience.

“These changes add up to safer, healthier and more affordable housing that improves not only the quality of the spaces, but the quality of life for all those who call them home,” Mayor Michelle Wu said at the event.

The goals around energy and climate were in focus at the event Monday. Sen. Ed Markey — who, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Stephen Lynch, obtained the funding for the Ausonia Apartments, said efforts like this will allow Boston to better face the effects of climate change.

“As Boston contends with encroaching seas, coastal flooding, scorching summers, we know the climate crisis is not on our doorsteps, it’s in our homes,” Markey said. “Our [residents] must be sheltered from the storm; we need bold partnerships and decisive action across all levels of government to meet the climate challenge.”

Officials also celebrated the continued support for affordable housing in the city. State Sen. Lydia Edwards, who serves as chair of housing in the state Senate, said that access to housing is an issue that affects everyone.

“It’s multigenerational, it’s multiracial. Everyone who has a lot of money to people who have very little money are all thinking about housing: where they’re going to live, where their children are going to live and how we, as a state, need to lead in that area,” Edwards said.

She said that housing like the Ausonia Apartments remains important to keep a diverse population of Bostonians downtown.

“Today is a celebration not just of funding, but of investment in public housing in downtown Boston. It is very important that we don’t forget that people of all income levels, of all backgrounds, have a home in downtown Boston,” Edwards said.

State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz said that investing in public housing is especially important in discussions about housing across the state.

“We are in a housing crisis here in this state, and it is critical that every dollar we can get, that we can reach for, we get, and we invest into housing here in Massachusetts,” Michlewitz said. “We talk a lot about the different kinds of housing, but we cannot forget about public housing. That’s the issue that kind of gets lost in the conversation because it’s sometimes not as sexy to talk about, but public housing is the backbone of our housing. Making sure that everyone has a decent roof over their heads is important for us to provide.”

Boston Housing Authority Administrator Kate Bennett said the funds are an important step to preserve the building, which was built in the 1970s, and its community.

“This is really a beautiful community, and it’s in a thriving neighborhood, and we have wonderful residents, but this building really needs some love,” Bennett said. “I want to thank Senator Markey and Congressman Lynch for bringing us that love today. Preserving this critical affordable housing, especially in such a high-market neighborhood, is just so important.”

Michelle Ganger, who has lived in the Ausonia for 17 years and serves as vice president of the Ausonia tenants association, said that the funding will bring needed support to the building.

“The building really needs to be upgraded, but you’ve invested in more than just our building: you’ve invested in us and our homes,” Ganger said. “Efforts will make life better here in the North End. This community is strong, and you make it stronger.”

Lynch said the assigning of the funding was a team effort at all levels of government.

“We rely so heavily on the mayor, on the senator, on the representative, on the city council to tell us what the priorities are here. This is a team here, and there’s one thing that brings us together, and that is our mission—to really care for you and make sure that you have the dignity that you’ve earned, the contributions that you’ve made in our city, and we’re so thankful that we can bring this money back,” Lynch said.

For Wu, obtaining funding like the $1.75 million for the Ausonia Apartments reflects the city’s goals more broadly.

“Housing that is climate-resilient, comfortable and affordable for everyone is our top priority at the city of Boston, and thanks to the work and partnership of all those here, we’re able to be here celebrating a major investment that brings us closer to realizing that goal across all our neighborhoods,” Wu said.

Ausonia Apartments, Boston Housing Authority, Congressman Stephen Lynch, Kate Bennett, Mayor Michelle Wu, North End, Sen. Ed Markey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren