On Saturday, October 9th, the East Canton Street Canton Street Preservation Association (ECSPA) and MAHT hosted a rally with 120 attendees in front the East Canton Street apartments, to demand that the City hold developers of luxury housing accountable to promises of community benefits and invest in the development of more truly affordable housing in Boston.
Rally speakers included ECSPA tenant activists Kenneth Woods and Maggie Costa, Newcastle Saranac tenant activist Rahel Berhe, Marcus Garvey tenant activist Mr. Crimes, community activists Conrad Ciszek, Armani White (Reclaim Roxbury), and Ivonne LaLyre (Save the Trees/Melea Cass Coalition), and city council candidates David Halbert, Ruthzee Louijeune, Carla Monteiro, and Julia Mejia. We were also joined by the amazing Extraordinary Rendition Band, who travelled all the way from Providence, RI as part of the annual HONK festival!
East Canton Street tenants, who successfully fought to preserve their own housing as affordable in 2007, witness the results of Boston’s unchecked luxury development every day from their windows. In 2020, just across the street from the East Canton Street apartments, arose The Smith, an 11 story, 300-unit ultra-luxury apartment building where the price of a 1-bedroom unit begins at around $3,800/month. Throughout the development process, The Smith made a series of community promises to East Canton Street tenants that they have since failed to follow through on. During Saturday’s rally, East Canton Street tenant and ECSPA Steering Committee member Kenneth Woods explained “The problem is the developers have not done what they said they were going to do. Our problem is not with the residents [of The Smith], it’s with the developers.”
The Smith is just one example of Boston’s rampant luxury development, which threatens to overtime to price out long-time residents and disrupt the social fabric of diverse, working class communities. Since the release of the Mayor’s Housing Boston 2030 Plan in 2014, the City has authorized the construction of nearly 13,500 new units of luxury housing. In stark contrast, the City has permitted the construction of only 770 new units of housing that is affordable to the City’s extremely low-income households who earn less than 30% of the area median income (approximately $25,000 per year), despite demographic projections that predict an extremely low-income affordable housing need of 21,100 by 2030.
The State and City have long cited insufficient funding a reason for inaction in addressing Boston’s housing crisis. However, the City will receive a total influx of $558 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), on top of a historically large $3.76 billion 2022 Operating Budget. MAHT calls on the City to place a pause on luxury development until they create a comprehensive housing plan to use this new revenue to develop truly affordable low-income housing .