news & press

Officials celebrate opening of Back Bay’s ‘most significant’ affordable housing development

Published in Development

Local and state officials on Thursday gathered at 140 Clarendon St., a property previously owned by YW Boston – the former YWCA – for an overdue celebration of what a developer described as Back Bay’s “most significant” affordable housing project the neighborhood “has ever seen.”

All 210 units – 111 serving formerly homeless people and the rest for residents with a federal voucher for subsidized housing – have been occupied since the end of last year, and officials said the completed project is just the beginning of a pattern that looks to make the affluent neighborhood more affordable.

“This project demonstrated what is possible even in the most prosperous neighborhood in this most prosperous city,” said Bruce PerceIay, chairman and founder of Mount Vernon Company. “It should be an example of what can be done, and this should not be the first of its kind but it should be the beginning of the realization that projects like this in this neighborhood are possible.”

Percelay’s real estate firm, known for quality apartment homes, commercial properties and luxury vacation rentals, teamed up with city-based developer Beacon Communities to purchase the building for roughly $51 million early in the pandemic.

The opportunity came after an initial buyer looked to convert the building into a high-end hotel but pulled out, paving the way for Beacon to drop $40 million to convert a portion of the building into studio and one-bedroom apartments.

Residents must earn below $51,950, or 50% of the median-area income for a single person, and for those transitioning out of homelessness, the income limit is $31,150 – criteria under the federal Section 8 housing program.

Units come with onsite health and wellness programs, case management, food assistance, and fitness and computer programming, said Darcey Jameson, Beacon’s vice president of development.

YW Boston ran a 66-room hotel and more than 100 subsidized rentals at the location, and after the nonprofit sold the building, tenants remained on site during construction of 111 units dedicated to residents transitioning out of homelessness.

The Pine Street Inn provides case managers and other services to that group.

Pine Street Inn – New England’s largest homeless services provider – is on the cusp of 1,000 affordable housing units across Boston, a feat that officials believe they’ll reach this spring.

“We work hard on housing,” Pine Street President and Executive Director Lyndia Downie said, “and we often get people saying ‘Why don’t you do housing in the Back Bay?’ Well, we’re now going to say ‘We are doing housing in the Back Bay.’

Housing Secretary Ed Augustus attended Thursday’s celebration and highlighted how the Back Bay project underscores the importance of all communities across the Bay State chipping in to provide affordable housing.

Some municipalities – Milton, Wrentham, among others – are showing hesitancy in complying with the MBTA Communities Act which requires cities and towns to zone for affordable housing near transit stations.

“There’s a lot of conversations going on right now about different communities’ responsibilities around zoning and production of housing,” Augustus said. “It is everybody’s responsibility – every community, every neighborhood. We are in this together.”

Article Link: