A group of residents has taken legal action to block a proposed affordable housing project in Charlestown Navy Yard, filing a lawsuit against the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA). The residents argue that the BPDA overlooked their public comments and concerns regarding the transformation of the Constitution Inn into 100 units of affordable housing.
Public Input Disregarded: Allegations of Violations
In the lawsuit, residents claim that the BPDA failed to take into account their resistance to the proposal, which allegedly included “over 100 letters and emails” and chat comments on virtual meetings. This amounts to a violation of their freedom of speech, petition, and assembly, the suit says.
Community Concerns Ignored: Key Issues Raised
The Navy Yard residents raised numerous concerns about the project they say the BPDA ignored, including safety issues, an increase in traffic, a lack of parking, and an overburdening of the medical system. Furthermore, plaintiffs argue that the proposal fails to consider the lack of health services in the area, the absence of a “full-service police station,” and a scarcity of amenities like pharmacies and supermarkets.
Healthcare System Strain and Opioid Crisis
“Further, medical professionals have expressed opposition to the project, as Charlestown does not have the requisite resources or services to support the homeless population, the majority of which have complex health problems — both mental and physical — and are often dealing with substance abuse, and it would over-burden an already severely taxed medical system in the Charlestown area,”
the filing reads.
Sustainability Concerns: Project Criticized
The lawsuit argues that providing housing alone will not address substance abuse issues or improve healthcare accessibility. Citing studies, the residents claim that the permanent supportive housing model, while increasing housing availability, does not reduce overdoses, deaths, or healthcare costs.
Employment Challenges and Transportation Issues
In addition to health-related concerns, residents also say the BPDA failed to consider how the residents of the affordable housing would “support” themselves. Because there are “few to no” jobs available in the Charlestown Navy Yard, plaintiffs say, residents would have to rely on public transportation, which is “a single bus that passes through the area infrequently,” according to the lawsuit. The Navy Yard is also around a 25-minute walk from North Station.
Applicant Responses and Project Features
In a November response to public comments, the project’s applicants wrote that the plan will not include “recovery housing” and will not allow “illegal drug activity,” though it would not have a sobriety requirement.
Supportive Features and Rebuttal to Concerns
The proposed housing would dedicate 48 units to the permanent supportive housing model, providing affordable housing plus on-site supportive services for people experiencing homelessness. Thirty-two of those units will be set aside for households that are led by women and 16 for households that include veterans, BPDA’s description of the project states. The other 52 units would be leased to households earning less than 80% of area income, and the remaining space would be leased back to the YMCA to continue its existing fitness facility and aquatic program.
A description of the proposal says that the project would include the implementation of a “dedicated shuttle” for residents. The project would also include 24/7 “private concierge style security” and professional wellness staff on-site, the applicants’ response says.
Legal Action Targets Entities Involved
In addition to Wu, the lawsuit names all voting members of the BPDA Board, the Planning Office for Urban Affairs, Constitution Inn, and Saint Francis House, a homeless shelter in Boston. This is the second lawsuit of the year filed against the BPDA over a “problematic approval process” of affordable housing.
“As a matter of human dignity, we believe in the importance of permanent, safe, high-quality affordable housing,”
applicants of the project wrote in response to public comment.
“With permanent affordable housing at The Independence, the residents of the PSH units will have access to an unprecedented level of services to assist them in living fully in a more stable housing experience.”
The controversy surrounding the proposed affordable housing project reflects the ongoing tension between community concerns and initiatives aimed at addressing housing needs in the Charlestown Navy Yard.