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Non-profit wants to buy approved but unbuilt development off Baker Street in West Roxbury and make all the units 'affordable'

B'nai B'rith Housing New England of Brighton wants to buy an approved but as yet unbuilt 60-unit residential project off Baker Street in West Roxbury and hopes to rent all of the units as affordable.

With BPDA approval, the non-profit would buy the development rights from Richard Olstein, who owns the land on which the units would sit, next to an existing office building he also owns, along the Needham Line train track. Although the project is called 270 Baker St., access would be via VFW Parkway and an extension of Simbroco Road onto Gardner Street, with no access directly onto Baker Street.

In 2017, the BPDA approved Olstein's plans for a 60 condos in two buildings with a garage under one of them. The Zoning Board of Appeal then gave its approval in 2018.

In June of this year, Olstein asked the BPDA to let him build the units as apartments rather than condos. But in a letter filed with the BPDA today, Olstein's lawyer says Olstein now wants to sell the residential part of his land to B'nai B'rith, that, in fact, he agreed to offer B'nai B'rith the development rights last month.

With BPDA approval, B'nai B'rith would keep the same total number of apartments, but would increase the number of one-bedroom apartments from the 4 Olstein won approval for to 19 and reduce the number of two-bedroom units from 50 to 35. The group would keep the number of three-bedroom units at the 6 that Olstein had permission to build.

In additional, B'nai B'rith would eliminate one of the two buildings and increase the size of the remaining building to accommodate all 60 of the apartments, according to the letter from Olstein's attorney, Dennis Quilty - who adds the net result would be to reduce the project's overall square footage. B'nai B'rith would also reduce the number of parking spaces from 90 to 60, and would provide those in a parking lot, rather than the more expensive garage Olstein had planned, Quilty wrote.

B'nai B'rith will also reduce costs by eliminating planned balconies.

The changes, when coupled with subsidies and financing B'nai B'rith would try for, would let it rent all of the units under BPDA's affordability guidelines, Quilty wrote.

Some 41 of the apartments would be rented to people making no more than 60% of the Boston area median income (in 2019, $68,000 for a family of four), while the remaining 19 units would be rented to people making no more than the area median income ($113,000 for a family of four).

Olstein's proposal included a total of eight units that would be rented as affordable.

270 Baker St. notice of project change (184k PDF).

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Comments

I get it's a cost savings but there's something good for the human spirit to have a space piece of private space which is outside, even if it's just a balcony.

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To have a home

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That would be fantastic! And giving up balconies is a small price to pay for the increase to 100% affordable!

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How is a family of four supposed to live in a one bedroom apartment? Also, why shouldn’t each unit have a parking space? The area is underserved by mass transit.

But a two-bedroom unit might work for a family with two young kids, and most of the apartments would still be two-bedrooms.

Also, each unit would have a parking space.

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TL;DR: I'm sympathetic to the outcome B'nai B'rith is pursuing, but distrust the approach.

I'm not questioning the motives of B'nai B'rith or anyone else, but this seems strange. There's a pretty long list of changes to the project.

Eliminate one building, make the other bigger. Replace garage parking with surface lot. Eliminate balconies. Reduce the number of 2-bedroom units and increase the number of 1-bedroom units.

I'm not saying that these changes aren't reasonable. It just seems strange to me for B'nai to try and purchase an already approved project and change it, rather than to simply figure out what *they* want to build, and go through the process.

I don't think the process should encourage this kind of strategizing to get affordable housing built. This action, to me, suggests that the process has some real problems.

I'm not saying that these changes aren't reasonable. It just seems strange to me for B'nai to try and purchase an already approved project and change it, rather than to simply figure out what *they* want to build, and go through the process.

It's not that hard to understand. This approach is less expensive which matters when trying to build affordable housing and keep costs down. This approach is also less likely to face the intense backlash that basically any multi-unit building proposed in West Roxbury faces since it's already permitted, which in the end also keeps costs down.

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On the contrary, I'm pointing out a broken system if this route is the most direct route to building the housing.

It'll be fun to watch all the West Roxbury NIMBYs who rant endlessly in their Facebook group about "overdevelopment" and "how unaffordable" everything new is suddenly come up with new reasons to oppose a completely affordable and now smaller development than the one already permitted. Those people will never be satisfied and should be ignored. This sounds like a great project that the city needs a lot more of.

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Build
Absolutely
Nothing
Anywhere
Near
Anything

https://twitter.com/oatmealboy/status/1166883541700861952

(There is an accompanying image but I haven't for the life of me ever had success linking images properly. That might be a good thing ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

There goes that saxophone in my head.