Tag Archives: developers

On today’s 4 p.m. meeting at City Hall re: Affordable housing in Worcester

By Rosalie Tirella

For far too long our CDCs have been the whipping boys of the “a new Woo on the rise” – or should we say “ruse”  – crowd. Developers with lots of dough (some good, some bad) who paint the CDCs as little more than “projects” filled with “pajama people,” people “who do not contribute,” women who are shacking up with boyfriends – all the usual racial and class stereotypes called up during discussions like the one the city will be having today at 4 p.m. at the Worcester City Hall. TODAY!

These developers claim that by putting the kibbosh on the CDCs and cutting back on the city’s affordable housing stock, Worcester will be reinvigorated with newcomers. People who will come to our city with new ideas, new … money. These developers  paint the bleakest picture of Worcester (because our people do not conform to their preconceptions) – it is a false snapshot of my city. Worcester IS a Gateway City, but it is a Gateway City that is doing a thousand times better than the state’s other Gateway Cities, such as Springfield (they almost went bankrupt a few years ago), Lawrence (poor, poor,poor) and Lowell. Worcester, with its upper-middle class neighborhoods (the kind you would see in the better parts of Brookline, for instance), its many colleges, teaching hospital and hospitals and AMAZING AMOUNT OF GREEN SPACE is miles ahead of these other Gateway Cities. But it is no tourist town either – a place where people can go to forget the world and their problems. Worcester is, in its own wide open, clean, relatively safe, tree-filled way a huge family town and a little Statue of Liberty – welcoming people from all over the world. Take a walk through Main South or Piedmont and you get the picture – the feel: Great ethnic food, clothing, languages, cultures, traditions. Again, we have a ton of middle and upper class neighborhoods in the city that are as Leave it to Beaver as you can get. Our inner city hoods are exciting, real and diverse. Let’s keep them going!!!

Years ago, Wusta’s newcomers could have found decent paying work in the scores of factories in our city. If they, like many of my Polish immigrant relatives, worked hard and saved their paychecks,  they could even become homeowners – buy a so-so three decker in neighborhoods like Green Island, South Worcester. As  homeowners in these working class hoods, my relatives stabilized parts of the city the well off didn’t want to be a part of – and they offered shelter from the storm of life to relatives and friends.

No more. Today, Worcester’s factories are dead. Our newcomers – many who struggle with English and have few skills – do not have the economic opportunities their counterparts had in the 1940s and 1950s. Video gaming and bio tech jobs will not close Worcester’s job gap. However, this doesn’t mean our new people should be shunned or shunted away from Worcester. The minimum wage needs to be raised, city leaders must – like New Bedford has – hustle to bring new, light industry to Worcester, so that today’s Wusta immigrants and under-educated folks can have decent paying jobs so they can pay the bills – have a shot at a stable, working class life.

IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID. NOT THE CDCs!

In fact, the CDCs are saving Worcester’s butt! The economy has wreaked havoc on the housing market. Inflated prices for crap housing stock, housing stock bought by developers (some out of towners) who either flip the buildings or cut up the apartments and charge high rents. People – renters – are exploited. By building safe and affordable appartments and condos through the years, the Main South CDC has stabilized many families and rescued Main South – a total pit in the 1970s, a place where my uncle, getting out of his car to pick up a prescription at Moynihan’s in the middle of the afternoon, was pounced upon by a prostitute. A good egg, and Worcester boy, he took it in stride and went inside the pharmacy to get his prescription. Much of the grime and icky housing stock, thnaks to the Main South CDC,  has been  replaced with beautiful units or reclaimed. The housing has been rented out/sold to working folks who need safe, affordable housing and a landlord that will not jack up the rent, treat his tenants like shit, flip his property, be lax with his property, etc. The way many developers are. I am not saying all developers are low lifes – I know a few nice ones – but they are outside the norm. Most landlords want to make as much money off their tenants as possible. Their properties are a business to them – not a social contract. Often times families in Woo apartments are living in cold water flats … and struggle to pay their bills and feed their families – or save $$ for a better fuure. Off they flee, in the middle of the night sometimes, ahead of the constable. The kids suffer in school, parents are stressed … .

The CDCs take the anxiety out of the picture, and, contrary to what some developers in town tell you, THEY DO HAVE AND FOLLOW INCOME GUIDELINES. My friend, a wonderful single mom with kids and a full time job, could not get into CDC housing because she did not make enough money! The CDC housing stock is not filled with “pajama people.” The condos and apartments are filled with working class people – many of them immigrants or immigrants’ kids – who contribute, hold jobs and make our city vibrant.

Worcester is Worcester. We have our challenges but we are a family town with a healthy middle class. Unfortunately, many of these wealthier folks are not spending their money at sushi bars – places where many developers want to see them, kind of upper income urban hipsters. We have those folks. But many of our upper income folks are not cruising bars  … . They have kids and family responsibilities. Many are socking away their dough in college bank accounts for their kids. Some are saving for a vacation home at the Cape. It is a more conservative way to spend expendable money, but these wealthier folks create the Worcester I want to live in: family focused, strong, green and safe.

Don’t dump on CDCs, the working class or affordable housing! Worcester is a great city – and don’t you forget it!!!

Empty nests

By Edith Morgan

As I look around my neighborhood, and as I think about friends in my age range, it seems that something important has changed: the old family homestead no longer is: immigrant families once came, bought a triple decker or duplex, raised a family there, maybe brought the grandparents over, and several generations lived in the same house. The tradition in many nations (most notably, among the Irish) was that at least one of the children would remain in the family home after the parents were gone. My friend Martha, recently deceased, went back to Wareham and bought her family home; Peggy around the corner bought HER parents’ home and lived there until her death. My neighbor Bill followed the old Irish tradition also, and is still in the family home.

But now I look around my neighborhood, and more and more I see the big old gracious houses where my neighbors raised six and seven children, standing empty, waiting to be sold to strangers. And it is saddening, because something is getting lost in the fabric of neighborliness that was the glue that held together the neighborhood, provided familiarity and the safety that comes from knowing the people around you, and the comforting feeling that help and caring is always near.

Perhaps it is because we all live longer and our young ones can not have the house for so many years, or perhaps it is that so often the newer generation want to be independent, want to have the newest fixtures, want to be nearer to their work, or want to follow their spouses. Whatever the reason, what I miss most is the commitment to the neighborhood, the neighborhood school, the support for neighborhood stores, and the “nosy neighbor” who was a tradition in many neighborhoods, and could be counted upon to know who came, who went, what everyone was doing, and who would report her (it was usually a “her”) findings . a number of us grew up staying on the “straight and narrow path” because we knew we were observed and reported upon. Annoying as we might have found that, it did prevent the need for extensive foot patrols!

And of course the younger generations travel much lighter than we did (I am in my eighties, and attached to thousands of books and memorabilia) and are more likely to throw things out. I can remember how many times my mother saved something, always sure that someday it would be of use – and surprisingly often, she was right.

And so, as I watch the huge dumpsters being filled with the accretions of nearly a century, I am saddened that it all has to be taken to be crushed and burned , unwanted, unused, and no longer loved….and the many things that are memory triggers for children and grandchildren are gone, though I hope that they had a chance to save a few things that will serve to remind them.

Many large, roomy, well-built houses throughout our city sit empty, waiting for someone with imagination and an appreciation of the finer aspects of living – the high ceilings, the finely-milled woodwork, the tall old trees, the obvious care that was taken by the builders who put up these homes with a view to the future. But I worry that in this age of digital clocks, where we see only the moment, of plastic, of constant change for the sake of change, that we may not have enough imagination to see the grace and beauty in these places, and let them deteriorate. And Preservation Worcester can not do it all!

Report finds MA housing “affordability crisis.” A great story in today’s Boston Globe

By Rosalie Tirella

A great story in the Boston Globe today (or go to Boston.com) re: just what InCity Times pointed out last issue: We have a “housing affordability crisis” in Massachusetts (and Worcester).

Contrary to what the greedy, fat-head brigade says in town, Worcester DOES NOT NEED MORE MARKET-RATE HOUSING. Worcester, along with every other city in Massachusetts, needs more affordable housing. Housing for working people, middle-class people, people who have jobs – and are still seeing almost half of their income go to rent (it should be about a third). Like single working moms – moms like the woman interviewed in the Glovbe story, written by Globe staff reporter Megan Woolhouse. The single mom Woolhouse interviewed said she makes $14 an hour working at FedEx and gets child support – and still uses most of her money on housing and necessities. A quote from Woolhouse’s piece:

“Sandra Cassio, a single mother, said the rent on her $1,300-a-month Dorchester apartment consumes about half her monthly paycheck. The 29-year-old cares for her two children and a nephew, and works part time at FedEx for $14 an hour. She also receives child support.

“The Dorchester apartment is also $200 more expensive than her last rental in South Boston, which Cassio had to leave when the landlord decided to renovate. She lives frugally to make ends meet; many of her furnishings are secondhand, given to her by friends and family.

” ‘You don’t want to be spending money on things that are not necessities,’’ Cassio said. “There is no ‘I want this.’ There is only ‘I need this.’ ‘ ”

This happens all over Worcester – every day!

Back to the Globe piece. This from a housing expert: “Belsky said low-income renters were most likely to be burdened by high rents because of an acute shortage of affordable housing. Apartment construction in recent years has been geared toward the upper-end market.”

These starting statistics, we all feel. We feel them as we watch Worcester Public school students leave one public school to go to another as they leave one apartment in Worcester to live in another, the bill collectors on their tails. We sem them in the instability in our neighborhoods because the families living in them are stressed to the max and are tired of moving, tired of being rootless. Domestic violence, violent crime – it all goes up.

More from the Globe story:

“The study, released yesterday, described an “affordability crisis’’ worsened by the recent recession, which eroded family incomes even as record foreclosures pushed more people into the rental market, driving up prices.

“As a result, 10.1 million US households, or one in four renters, spend more than half their earnings on rent and utilities. Another one in four households spends one-third to one-half of income on rent and utilities, according to the study.

“This squeeze, traditionally concentrated among lower-income families, is increasingly becoming a middle-class problem, according to the study. The percentage of middle-income families using 30 to 50 percent of their income for rent and utility payments more than doubled over the past decade, to 23 percent from 10 percent.”

Worcester does not need more $1,200 apartments – it needs more $650/$700 apartments. And if the Main South Community Development Corporation (CDC) and the other CDC’s in Worcester can build/rehab apartments, can do the job, along with big developers who get funds from the government if they build affordable housing, then I say BUILD ON! Build on CDCs and friends!!

We must not be bamboozled by a few fast talkers in town who wanna make a buck. When they build or rehab, they do not pay good wages to their carpenters or laborers. Construction workers at their jobs sites, do not get a salary to raise their families on – or pay their mortagages. The CDCs are the opposite. CDC’s use excellent building materials, excellent construction companies – who pay good wages – and they are – because they are nonprofit – forced to keep rents in their units affordable. And they don’t go into the business with the intent to “flip” their properties (to God knows who) to make a killing.

Let’s go Worcester CDC’s! Let’s build for Worcester!