SO-CALLED "AFFORDABLE" HOUSING IS NOT ACTUALLY AFFORDABLE

[Click here to go to the independent research that is the source of the facts in this article]

The Brighton Allston Community Coalition advocates:

 

"The City of Boston should mandate that all new large residential developments in Allston-Brighton make 20 percent of their units affordable (instead of the now-required 13%)."

This may seem at first blush like a good thing to advocate for, but it's not. In fact, if Allston-Brighton ever actually had 20 percent of our housing units being affordable as defined by the City of Boston, it would continue to be the case that very many working class folks would be unable to afford to rent housing in Allston-Brighton and would be forced to leave a neighborhood in which previous generations of their family had long lived (which is what gentrification means). How come?

Here's why. As discussed in this very informative article about what "affordable" actually means for the City of Boston's government, a one bedroom apartment with 964 square feet that rents for $3,492 per month (equivalent to $41,904 per year) is "affordable." The reason it is "affordable" is because it could be rented by an individual with an income of $125,000 per year by spending only 34% of his/her income on rent.

This definition of "affordable" is an insult to working class people of Allston-Brighton. The median household yearly income in Allston-Brighton is only $51,656--not even half of the $125,000 it would take for a person to be able to "afford" this $3,492 per month rent. And many working class people earn far less than the $51,656 median. For example, janitors' income is on average only $29,000 and ranges from about $21,000 to $42,000--far lower than the median.

Furthermore, the City of Boston's government says this one bedroom apartment renting for $3,492 per month is affordable because the rent is not more than 35% of the income of somebody earning $125,000 per year, but the federal government uses the figure of 30%, not 35%, and so according to the federal government this apartment is NOT affordable even by somebody with a $125,000 income!

On top of all this, having only 20% of housing units being affordable (even if, contrary to the City of Boston's definition, they were TRULY affordable to working class people) would STILL mean that 80% of the housing units would remain unaffordable. Many hard working people in Allston-Brighton would STILL be forced out of the neighborhood. If they worked in Allston-Brighton they would be forced to live a long--often two hour--commute away. This is wrong!

Why does the Brighton-Allston Community Coalition [BACC] (and Liz Breadon, one of its founders and our new City Councillor) advocate for only 20% "affordable"  housing in new developments when that clearly would NOT come even close to ending the gentrification of our neighborhood (i.e., the removal of our working class people and their replacement with wealthier upper middle class people)? Why don't they call for ALL new housing to be affordable--and truly affordable to working class people?

Why doesn't the Brighton-Allston Community Coalition (and Liz Breadon) fight for what most people in Allston and Brighton say they want: Affordable housing for ALL?

Working class people in our neighborhood know that the lack of affordable housing for all is due to the fact that we live in a fake democracy that is actually a dictatorship of the rich, and that to get affordable housing for all we need to do exactly what more than 1000 people in Allston-Brighton and more than 500 people in Brighton alone say they aim for: "To remove the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor."

The leaders of the Brighton Allston Community Coalition are OPPOSED to building the kind of movement that can win affordable housing for all, even though more than two-thirds of the membership of the Brighton Allston Community Coalition joined that organization by signing a membership signup sheet (with their printed name and street address as well) saying that they hope the organization would declare that it is also for "removing the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor." 

In response to all these new members joining the BACC, the BACC's Vice Chair (Joanne D'Alcomo) and Chair (Kevin Carragee) declared that no member of the organization would be allowed to post anything to the BACC's email group if it even hinted at wanting to remove the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor. You can read the emails in which Joanne D'Alcomo said she was enforcing this censorship here (the section near the top of this long article that is red links to the relevant emails far below for your convenience.)

Why are the leaders of the BACC so opposed to the BACC advocating a real fight for affordable housing for all? Is it because they don't want to anger the rich and powerful? Is this why Kevin Carragee keeps reminding BACC members to act "civilly" and why their BACC Mission Statement says the BACC will act in "a civil manner"?  Is it because they aren't really that concerned about people such as janitors having to leave the neighborhood? Is it because they know they, as upper middle class people, can afford to stay in Allston Brighton and they really are far more concerned with making it a nice neighborhood for THEM to live in than they are for making it a neighborhood in which less wealthy working class folks can live?

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Here is the answer I wrote to a person who asked me what the City of Boston's definition of "affordable" was. My answer overlaps with the above but has some extra information also:

The great article, "What does 'affordable' mean in Boston?" is online at https://medium.com/@graceholley/what-does-affordable-mean-in-boston-54786aaabf34 . This gives the best answer I know of to your question.

 

The article describes how the City of Boston uses the word "affordable" for rental units. The article points out that the City uses the word in a very slippery and deceitful manner.

 

One might expect, for example, that the City's definition of "affordable" would mean that the rent is no more than X dollars per month, with the X specified as some actual number. But no, the City has no such definition.

 

Instead the City uses the word "affordable" in the context of saying how high the rent can be for an apartment to be affordable to somebody; what's "affordable" to a wealthier person is thus not "affordable" to a poorer person in this manner of using the word.

 

The article gives one example of what the City calls an "affordable" rental unit. In this example, the apartment is a one bedroom with 964 square feet that rents for $3,492/month or $41,904/year. Why is it "affordable"? The City calls it "affordable" because it is affordable TO A PERSON MAKING $125,000 per year. It is "affordable" to such a person because the rent is "only" 34% of such a person's income ($41,904 rent per year is 34% of $125,000 income per year.) Where did the 34% figure come from? The federal government says an apartment is affordable to somebody if that person can pay the rent with no more than 30% of their income; but the City of Boston says it is affordable to somebody even if it takes up to 35% of that person's income to pay the rent.

 

​Because the City uses 35% (not 34%) in its definition, the rent could even be as high as $43,750/year or $3,646/month and STILL be considered "affordable" by the City (because 43,750 is 35% of 125,000).

 

The City uses the expression "affordable to middle income" people. One would think (hope) that this would mean affordable (rent no more than 35% of the person's income) to people earning around the median income of Boston, which is about $72,000. But no! The City considers somebody earning $125,000 /year to be in the "middle income" bracket. This means that when the City says that so-and-so many units are "affordable to middle income" people, it is counting units that rent, as in the example above, for $3,492/month or $41,904/year, as "affordable." But many of these units are not affordable to many middle income people who earn far less than $125,000/year.

 

Likewise, the City considers somebody whose income is $55,000/year to be in the "low income" bracket. This means that an apartment that rents for $1,604/month is considered to be "affordable" for "low income" people. But a janitor's income in Boston is on average only $29,000 and ranges from about $21,000 to $42,000. A janitor earning the average of $29,000/year and devoting 35% of his/her income to rent could only afford an apartment renting for $846/month. This means that when the City says that such-and-such many apartments are affordable to "low income" people, it is not true; many of the supposedly affordable apartments are not affordable to many low income people who, like Boston public school janitors, earn far less than $55,000/year.

And for people with no children the City uses the figure of 50% instead of 35% in its absurd definition of "affordable." This makes obscenely high rents supposedly "affordable." For example, if a person with no children and an income of $125,000/year is renting an apartment for $5,208/month, then according to the City of Boston he/she is living in an "affordable" apartment (because $5,208/month rent is $62,496/year rent and this is less than 50% of $125,000)!

[the short URL for this article is tinyurl.com/wktulaw ]

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