Conservation Ballot Drive Opens in Boston

Boston, MA, 8/7/2001: A coalition of nonprofit organizations announced today that it is launching a campaign to place the Community Preservation Act (CPA) on the ballot in Boston for the November 6, 2001 election. If approved by voters, CPA would provide more than $50 million in the next two years for three purposes: affordable housing, open space and historic preservation.

The Campaign for A Better Boston announced the drive to collect 13,000 signatures between August 8 and September 25 at the Baker Chocolate Factory apartments in Dorchester. The site was chosen because it is an award-winning historic preservation project with moderately priced apartments and views of the nearby Neponset River Greenway. Campaign supporters announced that they would seek a 2% surcharge on the property tax which would raise nearly $28 million in the first year ?$14 million from commercial and residential taxpayers in Boston and another $14 million in a state matching fund.

CPA’s impact on homeowners in Boston would be modest. All moderate and middle income seniors would be exempted from paying the surcharge. All other low and moderate income households would also be exempt. As a result of these exemptions two-thirds of senior homeowners would experience no tax increase as a result of CPA. The CPA would cost the average non-exempt homeowner $17.74 per year.

“I have taught homebuying workshops to over 4,000 people in the past 8 years. I get calls everyday from those families saying ? “I have been preapproved for a mortgage but I can’t find a place I can afford.” said Florence Hagins of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance. Hagins continued, “Senior citizens are also telling me that they’re being forced from the neighborhoods where they were born and raised. CPA is the most important thing we can do to help people, strengthen neighborhoods, and build a better Boston.”

Albert Rex, Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance said that, “The Community Preservation Act is a great opportunity for Boston that would provide the first dedicated funding source for historic preservation in the city. The fund would be most effective when it is utilized for a project that combines two or all three purposes. For example the Hotel Dartmouth in Dudley Square is an important historic building that could use these funds to preserve the building and provide 24 units of affordable housing. A project like this truly revitalizes and preserves our community.”

Valerie Burns, President of the Boston Natural Areas Funds commented that, “Open space is a crucial part of Boston’s quality of life. CPA funds could be used for a wide variety of projects ? from neighborhood parks and playing fields to the Emerald Necklace to natural areas near our waterways. Simply put, CPA could help make Boston a better place to live for everyone.”

Boston is experiencing an affordable housing crisis that is not only impacting renters and homebuyers but the business community as well. According to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in their Leading Industries report, “Low vacancy rates – among the lowest in the country – and rising housing prices cause hardship for many. They make it difficult for young workers, workers moving to Boston, renters and elderly residents on fixed incomes to live in the region.”

The coalition includes nonprofit organizations representing environmental, affordable housing and historic preservation interests: Boston Greenspace Alliance, Boston Natural Areas Fund, Boston Preservation Alliance, Boston Tenants Coalition, Citizens Housing and Planning Association, Conservation Law Foundation, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, Historic Massachusetts, Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, and The Trust for Public Land.

Located on the banks of the Neponset River, the Walter Baker Chocolate Company manufactured chocolate products in Dorchester Lower Mills dating back to the early 1800s. After the company relocated in 1964, the historic mill buildings sat largely vacant for decades until Keen Development and its partners converted the complex into affordable housing.

The award-winning rehabilitation created 133 apartments at moderate rents. The exterior was carefully restored and the interior converted to comfortable and unique layouts which take advantage of the historic character of the complex and its site. The re-use of the landmark mills as housing also contributed significantly to the revitalization of this Boston neighborhood. This community now supports a lively commercial area with many shops and restaurants. The Baker Chocolate Factory was honored with a Preservation Award from the Massachusetts Historical Commission in 1986 and by a 25th Anniversary National Award from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in 1988.