Affordable Housing for the Rich?

As Christmas approaches, it seems that Santa has left something under the tree for the top 2 percent in Boston. I ran across a story last week that was about micro-apartments. For those of you who are uninformed, micro-apartments are small units that are around 300 to 400 square feet. That’s enough room for a small bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchenette with a fridge small enough to fit under the sink. The buildings built specifically for these tiny apartments also have shared living spaces and common areas. Now that I think about it, this arrangement sounds a lot like the affordable rooming houses that were all over the Greater Boston area when I came here 30 years ago. The folks responsible for designing these units are a company called ADD Inc., an architecture and design firm located in Boston. It all sounds great until you get to the fine print. These mini apartments will mainly be marketed toward people who can afford them, in other words, “for people whose income is too high for affordable housing, but who have been priced out of the housing market.” That is to say, low-income and homeless folks on Section 8 need not apply. I know that the units being built will probably be owned privately. Sadly, since there’s no rent control in Boston, those landlords can do pretty much want they want. Come on! This city – heck, this state – can’t even house its poorest residents; and yet people are building housing for those who can pretty much live anywhere they want. And that housing is being made affordable for them. Now, I know that someone associated with this project will read this, and call me or the editor and say something like, “We’re not discriminating against the poor, we welcome all.” Well, that’s not what the article said, boys and girls. What I read said that the folks who are being targeted for these units are WORK –ORIENTED PROFESSIONALS. Sorry, but I don’t know any professionals who live in the Pine Street Inn, or on the street. At this time of year, it’s hard to believe that we’re building housing for those who are well-off, at the same time as the state is cutting services for the homeless; but it’s happening. People have seemingly become numb to homelessness, and this is a prime example. We should be building micro-housing that’s affordable for the hundreds, no, thousands, that are currently without homes. Now, I know that the genius who owns or will own these units will say that housing the homeless is a huge undertaking and it will be costly. And they would be right – there is no money in housing the needy. We need to house young professionals who can afford anywhere from $1500 to two-grand a month. It’s sad, really, because if places like this ADD Inc. Company – and others like it – would stop thinking about how much money they can make and think about those who have less than them, maybe we would have a real chance at ending homelessness. But we all know that present will never be left under the tree – Merry Christmas to all.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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