BOSTON- Dozens of community leaders and statewide supporters of affordable housing pushed for the redevelopment of Somerville’s Clarendon Hill public housing at a State House hearing today before the Joint Committee on Housing.
Clarendon Hill is a Somerville Housing Authority (SHA) family development comprising 216 state public housing apartments that are home to more than 500 people, including 200 children. The site’s buildings, built in the 1940s, are well past their useful life, have significant deferred maintenance, and do not comply with modern design, safety and accessibility standards.
“This proposed redevelopment has the strong and active support of the Clarendon public housing residents, City of Somerville, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and community leaders,” said Mayor Joseph Curtatone. “The plan brings together the public and private sectors to replace Clarendon’s public housing units within a new 539-unit mixed-income community while creating 1,000 jobs. This is a unique opportunity that we must act upon,” he said.
The Clarendon redevelopment is a public-private partnership of the Somerville Housing Authority and a local development team: the Somerville Community Corporation, Preservation of Affordable Housing, and Redgate Residential. The project was initiated and funded in compliance with Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Expanding Housing Opportunities Partnership.
“We are a diverse community,” said Jessica Turner, co-chair of Clarendon Residents United. “Many of our families are single-parent households. Many of us are men and women who are domestic violence survivors, veterans, immigrants and people of color. Our families are different in many ways, but we all want the same thing – a stable, healthy and safe home for ourselves, our children, and future families who may live at Clarendon,” she said.
In May 2018, after extensive engagement with the development team and stakeholders, the Somerville Board of Aldermen voted to advance a home rule petition to the legislature. The City of Somerville’s home rule petition, (H.4580), must be adopted before the end of the current session in order for the project to move forward. Failure to enact the petition would jeopardize the project’s funding commitments from the Commonwealth ($17 million) and the City of Somerville ($10 million).
The home rule petition is modeled on similar petitions passed for more than ten recent public housing redevelopments in Massachusetts. The petition gives SHA the ability to retain ownership of the Clarendon property, while leasing the site to its development team under binding land use restrictions to ensure the public housing units will be operated in compliance with the state’s public housing laws and regulations in perpetuity. SHA and DHCD will continue to provide compliance oversight.
The petition also allows the project team to use a private-sector competitive bidding process (as has been done with all affordable housing development for many years) to more effectively negotiate with general contractors to manage development costs. This will help the project to reach its hiring goals for minority-, women-, and locally-owned businesses and to secure financing because the current procurement processes often conflict with banks’ loan requirements.
The petition makes no change to the applicability of prevailing wage laws or to the public procurement processes for the facets of the project that will be undertaken by public agencies.
For more information on the Clarendon Hill Redevelopment Project, visit www.clarendonhill.org