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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Rep. Pressley secures $2.4 million in federal funding to renovate Clarendon Hill Apartments

New funds will help construct or renovate a total of 591 homes across three buildings and a set of townhomes in Somerville.

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The construction along Alewife Brook Parkway is pictured.

In early January, Rep. Ayanna Pressley hosted a community roundtable with Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne and local authorities to discuss affordable housing, specifically, the plans for the Clarendon Hill Redevelopment Project. This project seeks to add 375 apartments to Clarendon Hill’s original 216 units, totaling 591 units of mixed-income housing across three buildings and several townhomes.

This meeting came after the City of Somerville received $2.4 million in federal funding from the full-year 2023 federal budget to refurbish and renovate the Clarendon Hill apartments, which are over 70 years old. Renovations will include fossil-fuel free and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings with improved common spaces and unit sizing, as well as safer routes to local stores and services. In addition to the existing 216 public housing units, the new construction will create 80 affordable housing units that will be rented at market rate. The city is also redesigning the Alewife Brook Parkway and Powderhouse Boulevard intersection with pedestrian and bike safety in mind.

Construction for the first phase of the Clarendon Hill Project began in 2023 and is currently slated for completion in November 2024, with the hope to move residents in by the end of 2024.

“As with any construction project, there are many steps to achieve approval to move families in, but the end of 2024 is our current target,” Cory Mian, senior vice president for real estate development for the Preservation of Affordable Housing, wrote in an email to the Daily. Preservation of Affordable Housing is one of the nonprofit organizations behind the project’s development.

That being said, work on Clarendon Hill did not begin with this recent funding. In a statement to the Daily, Ballantyne emphasized years of service from partners prior to this new funding to sustain and support the residents of Clarendon Hill.

“There has been a tremendous amount of work done over many years by the City’s housing office, the Somerville Housing Authority and community advocates,” Ballantyne wrote. “In response to a notice of funding available issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2015, the Somerville Housing Authority (SHA) selected a development team that includes Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC) to lead the efforts to redevelop the Clarendon site.”

Gonzalo Puigbo, CEO of the Somerville Community Corporation, also attended the community roundtable and shared his sentiments with the Daily on why the units in Clarendon Hill needed immediate attention.

“[The Clarendon Hill affordable housing units] are really in disrepair at this point in time,” Puigbo said. “The facilities, the appliances, the common grounds in general [and] just the living conditions, have deteriorated to a point where not only does it need to be rehabilitated but we also need to fix the affordable housing crisis that we have in the city.”

But in regard to the timeliness of the federal funding, Puigbo espoused the belief that any advancements in affordable housing are a net positive.

“When it comes to affordable housing, any progress is good,” Puigbo said. “There are challenges from a budgetary perspective, from a tax revenue perspective, and also in terms of timing of the project itself.”

Ballantyne shared similar worries as Puigbo about the lack of affordable housing in Somerville and outlined her plans to address the crisis.

“We are in a regional housing crisis and we need to use every tool we have to help ensure our residents can stay in their homes and access housing they can afford,” Ballantyne wrote. “This includes addressing public housing, private development, policies, regulations, funding streams, and more as well as supporting workforce development.”

As for residents of Clarendon Hill, Ballantyne was optimistic about their sense of autonomy through the process.

“Of course, it can be daunting to temporarily leave your home, but I think residents feel empowered to share their concerns and excitement about the future of Clarendon Hill. They know they have an important voice at the table as this project develops,” Ballantyne wrote.

Clarendon Hill was established in 1948 as housing for veterans returning from World War II. Today, Ballantyne shared that 92% of Clarendon Hill households are led by women, 87% of whom are women of color. Ballantyne was adamant about the impermissibility of statistics like these going forward.

“It is well-documented that women-led households make up the majority of low-income households and the unacceptable impacts of this are playing out in Somerville just as they are across the nation,” Mayor Ballantyne wrote. “I am determined that Somerville strives for greater equity through meaningful efforts such as the Clarendon Hill project.”