Upham's Corner Online

St. Mary's Center for Women and Children used as Ploy

Posted: May 2, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

What is the purpose of the Archdiocese of Boston's in-house developer citing St. Mary's Center for Women and Children in their presentation of the St. Kevin's development?

The developer continues to refer to St. Mary's Center for Women and Children when they talk about St. Kevin's, yet there is no foundation for this.  The allusion to homeless women and children living at St. Mary's looking for permanent housing is like an allusion to saving the baby seals.  The archdiocese developer is using the St. Mary's image to sway the community to be in favor of the St. Kevin's low income housing development. After all, who isn't in favor of helping women and children?

That's the conclusion drawn after investigating the developer's statements and checking with outside sources, in particular, the Boston Housing Authority.  Yet, even this conclusion may be incorrect because developer statements about the housing mix conflict.
  • there are 20 section 8 units (for the developer)
  • there are 80 tax credit units (per the developer)
  • there are 80 residential units in all (per the developer)
  • you can't have 20 units that are both section 8 and tax credit (per the Boston Housing Authority)
What's important here?

Is the Upham's Corner community obsessed by bean counting - how many red units, how many blue?  Or is the Upham's Corner community just looking for the truth?

The analysis shows that a snow ball effect of mis-statements by some pretty important politicians and other political stakeholders is running rampant, comparable to the issue of "clubbing baby seals."  St. Mary's and St. Kevin's (they say) are one and the same.  A closer look shows this representation to be convenient, plausible, believable but FALSE.

Fundamental to the anger being expressed by St. Kevin's area residents is the repeated attempts by the Archdiocese of Boston developer to mislead the community for their personal gain and this is just another example. 

What did the community have to say about St. Kevin's at the BRA hearing?  In particular, to what extent did those in favor of the project tie there are support of the St. Kevin's housing development to some special relationship with St. Mary's?

The answer is "a lot!"

Judy Beckler
[Speaking of St. Mary's]

We know that if we intervene with moms that we make their children's lives better.  And so our intent is to really look at this as an intergenerational opportunity to move families out of homelessness into affordable housing that is not segregated in poverty.  So thank you for the opportunity.  I hope you will think about this kindly for the sake of the women and children.  Thanks.
Marty Walsh Thank you Mr. Chairman.  I am Marty Walsh as the building trades but also in my role as state representative, I have a lot of interaction with St. Mary's Women's and Infants Center.  Judy Beckler came to me probably a while ago to talk about this idea of doing housing.  I felt that it was an outstanding idea and a great opportunity.  The work that happens at St. Mary's is truly remarkable.  It's miraculous in a lot of cases.  I have the good fortune of every graduating class of women who do a work program to generally go to and speak at it.  The hope in the women's eyes, when they graduate this program, is incredible. 

What this development adds to St. Mary's is a component that it has a little bit of right now at St. Mary's, but gives women and children the opportunity to have their own home, not only go through the program but also have their own home when they're done.
Maureen Feeney
Mike Manning, on behalf of City Councilor, Maureen Feeney.  .. also, as representative Walsh has mentioned, allowing St. Mary's to continue and extend the already great work they do up on Jones Hill.  So for all those reasons again councilor Feeney would like to support this project.

John Barros
It's good to have a development partner that's going to stay on board.  Sometimes developments get done in the community and there's no one there afterwards and residents have to work it on their own but with St. Mary's center there with us, we think we can continue to build the community and continue to think about how we integrate people into the community and the use make sense.  Thank you
Project Hope
Good evening.  My name is Alexis Fronbin.  I'm speaking on behalf of Sister Margaret Leonard from Project Hope.  Project Hope has collaborated with St. Mary's for many years and holds them in high regard.  They have quality programs that truly move young families beyond homelessness and poverty.  Linking such quality services for young families and housing and neighborhood and creating pathways to economic security for them is a win for all of us.
Lisa Alberghini [in response to BRA Board member Mr. Coyle's statement of concern about the project parking issues]

The residents that we are trying to serve, many of them in those 20 units have no cars at all, so zero of the residents right now at St. Mary's center with families have cars.  They are used to public transit.  So we do think that this particular housing development is going to have less of a need for parking and some of the normal homes of that vicinity for certain. 



Insufficient Vetting with Neighbors
James M. Coyle, BRA Board Member, in response to POUA's Lisa Alberghini:

"I think the question is the community meetings - it's been mentioned that some of your neighbors, your immediate neighbors, don't feel that you’ve really vetted it with them.   If that could happen, if that process could continue, then at least they would be addressed."
Lack of clarity
Mrs. Gonzales-Thornell, BRA Board Member:

”Mr. Chairman, I have, like everyone else in this room, I'm sure, I'm in favor of affordable housing, supportive services for these young women, but I am very concerned about the abutters and the concerns that they raised, particularly since they have worked so hard to have the homes that they have in that area. 

Now we have some inconsistencies.  I think it's for the lack of, perhaps understanding about… We have one homeowner, who is an abutter - two, as a matter of fact - who are in favor of it, feeling that the property, as it stands right now, causes bad criminal activity.  Then we have an abutter who says that this project will cause criminal activity.  So there is some inconsistency which, I think, just brings to the surface the fact that there needs to be more clarity in terms of what's happening there. ”





Developer
And people know as part of this, we're building 25% of the units or 20 units that would serve families that would be coming from programs like St. Mary's Center for women and children. It would be all St. Mary's families because it would be from there and like programs. Some of the families and residents would be students. Some of them are going to be young families. That's part of the program mix as well.
Resident
Are you using section 8 for the 20 units? 
Developer
Yes
Resident
It's my understanding that section 8 units are not determined by yourself but rather determined by the Boston Housing Authority. So your ability to designate units from St. Mary's to your site St. Kevin's is nonexistent.
Developer
That's exactly why I said what I just said which is that it is not for St. Mary's families exclusively but it is for families from programs like that.
Resident
In the past you have always said that those units are exclusively for St. Mary's.  You have to stop saying that.
Developer
We have tried to say both but we will remember that going forward.

In November 2010 the developer’s presentation to the community described the project as "80 residential units" without one comment clarifying the housing mix – subsidized, section 8, market rate, etc.

Until recently, nobody knew any details about the housing mix because the developer has never released any written documentation at meetings, not even one piece of paper.  Complete documentation is available at the Upham's Corner library dated 12/3/2010. 

What has the developer said about the housing mix?

October 11, 2011
On October 11, 2011 at the Westside meeting, the developer (Ms. Alberghini) stated the following: 

" ...  all 80 units are the tax credit rent - this is not like section 8 housing where you don't have to make much income to be eligible."
April 24, 2012
Resident:  "Are you using Section 8 for the 20 units?"  Developer: "Yes."

While the developer did not distribute documentation at the April 24 St. Kevin's meeting, the presentation did include a slide of family incomes, hourly rates, monthly rental payments and more associated with the tax credit rental units.  However, it had so much detail that it wasn't legible. The developer promised a full copy of the powerpoint presentation but has not followed through on this.

"Tax credit" rental units are completely different from section 8 units. Family income guidelines are dramatically different. Families earning 50 to 60% of the Boston median income can qualify for the tax credit units but must pay a substantial monthly rent. By comparison, section 8 units are designed for families with very little income.

According to Cheryl Hill of the Boston Housing Authority (BHA),
  • A tax credit rental unit cannot be used for Section 8 clients
  • If the 20 units are Section 8, then the apartment rental (lease) for those units is handled by the Boston Housing Authority (not the St. Kevin's Manager)

In the light of the new information about the housing mix, what can be concluded about statements made by people who supported St. Kevin's because of St. Mary's?

Who
True or False?
Answer
Explanation
Judy Beckler
Our intent is to really look at this as an intergenerational opportunity to move families out of homelessness into affordable housing that is not segregated in poverty. 
False
Her statement, while made at the St. Kevin's BRA hearing, does not state St. Kevin's but it certainly suggests St. Kevin's by association.  Their ability to move their clients to St. Kevin's is at best limited.
Marty Walsh
What this development adds to St. Mary's ... gives women and children the opportunity to have their own home when they're done. False
It does not guarantee that anyone from St. Mary's will have housing at St. Kevin's
Maureen Feeney
Allowing St. Mary's to continue and extend the already great work they do up on Jones Hill.  False
St. Kevin's has no influence on St. Mary's and, in particular, does not allow or influence in any way St. Mary's work
John Barros
Sometimes developments get done in the community and there's no one there afterwards ... with St. Mary's center there with us, we think we can continue to build the community False
St. Kevin's will have an independent management agency.  St. Mary's has nothing to do with the continued management of St. Kevin's.
Project Hope
Linking [St. Mary's and St. Kevin's] services for young families and housing and neighborhood and creating pathways to economic security for them is a win for all of us. False
St. Mary's and St. Kevin's will be connected only marginally, if at all.
Lisa Alberghini
Zero of the residents right now at St. Mary's center with families have cars.  So we do think that this particular housing development is going to have less of a need for parking 
False
Using St. Mary's statistics to justify parking issues at St. Kevin's has no meaning since St. Mary's residents are not guaranteed access to St. Kevin's


  1. Someone / something caused political stakeholders to believe that there was a "feeder" relationship between St. Mary's and St. Kevin's.  St. Mary's would move their families directly to St. Kevin's.  As a result, these people gave testimony in favor of St. Kevin's.
  2. If as the developer states the 20 units are set aside for St. Mary's or programs like them, why doesn't the developer mention those programs as well?
  3. If the BHA will determine who the lessees will be, why isn't the developer honest in her statements?
  4. The BRA Board specifically cited developer for two counts of non-transparency - not just a complaint from the community.
  5. The developer, even after being confronted by one of the residents, said they will say both:  St. Mary's and other similar programs.  Why?
The level of manipulation and dishonesty being exhibited by the Archdiocese of Boston through their in-house developer is disheartening, no matter where it might be taking place, but, the residents say, particularly so in Upham's Corner.

Elected officials ... where are you??


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