Letter to the Editor (2) – June 12

On June 12, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Washington Street development is not just for low-income folks, but for middle income like you.

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)

What gets lost in the discussion about SCC’s proposed redevelopment at 181 Washington Street is we’re primarily engaging in a lighthearted low-income housing effort. While the mission of the project includes assisting in low-income housing opportunities, this effort is not so limited in its use.

What is lost in this confusion is how this redevelopment provides the opportunity for our very own city workers, nurses, police, construction workers and yes, even teachers to remain in Somerville. The Green Line is coming and housing prices are only going to go up. That is ultimately what this project is about. I’m a recent college grad and without opportunities like this one, I’m not certain I’ll be able to stay in Somerville either. Yet, the burden would be greater on those who have raised families here longer than the 4 years I took to study here.

– Guillermo Samuel Hamlin


22 Responses to “Letter to the Editor (2) – June 12”

  1. Jim says:

    Nurses, police, and all skilled trades construction workers make way too much money to qualify for the SCC’s low-income units, but not enough for the adjacent planned private sector market rate units. This development is not planned for middle income working people. Its for the poor and the wealthy.

    Whats lost in your article is that you just graduated college, just started out on your own, and haven’t really experienced many life experiences that would form your perspective on this development. When I was 22, I would have written the same letter, but after struggling to pay back student loans (still owe over 100k) and raising a family (kids are a fortune) my perspective is very different. Affordable housing is not for middle income earners which are the people being gentrified out of Somerville.

  2. Barry the Pig says:

    So true. Only the bums and the wealthy can live in Somerville.

  3. Guillermo Samuel Hamlin says:


    Perhaps I wasn’t explicit in my letter…but the moderate income bracket is exactly what I’m referring to. We’re advocating that this redevelopment is an opportunity to preserve those Somerville residents who’ve lived hereabouts for years, and need to stay here. For those who have invested greatly in their residency to provide us essential services thus having morally significant reasons to stay (teachers, municipal workers, librarians,etc). So let there be no mistake, low-income housing isn’t the sole purpose of this effort, it’s merely one part of it. 181 Washington Street will be a multi-use initiative whose features will set the stage for increasing economic development.

    I hope I sufficiently clarified what was meant to be stated, and with renewed clarity amend your view concerning the advantages of this redevelopment effort.



  4. Jim says:

    Look at what police, experienced teachers, and nurses make vs. the income limits on the proposed development. They make too much to qualify. This development is driven by Federal grant funding formulas.

    I agree that folks making $12 an hour should be able to stay in Somerville, but I’m not certain that they will benefit from this housing.

    The SCC has done some good work and the Temple Street Condos were a great idea to promote affordable ownership opportunities. Unfortunately the Union Sq. development looks a lot more like an ultra high density subsidized housing development than a community asset.

  5. ritepride says:

    “SCC” = “Support Curtatones Causes” a Non profit fraud that pays exhorbitant big $$$ to its head honcho. Well the DA bagged the guy in Chelsea, lets hope they and the feds do a thorough investigation of Somerville & the sweetheart deals between the developers and the city administration.

  6. Somerbreeze says:

    Ritepride – SCC isn’t any lackey for Curtabaloney…

    Remember last year how he fought their Jobs For Somerville initiative,
    that garnered a lot of local support?

    And now we have Assembly Square development–with $25 million of our own dollars–with NO local hiring in place…

    SCC is small potatoes, compared to the VERY well-heeled developers that Curtabaloney plays Pass The Envelope with…

    Curtabaloney can’t be BOUGHT–but he can be RENTED!

  7. ritepride says:

    “Somerbreeze” Yeh right! …just like some local real estate companies aren’t ‘fronts’ for Tufts buying up taxable properties that end up becoming “tax-exempt”.

  8. Anna says:

    The SCC proponents keep telling us that we need this development to keep Somerville residents from being priced out. Noone, however, has yet stated whether long-time, CURRENT Somerville residents will get priority for the low income units. Or will we use federal money, like the federal projects at Mystic Ave., and import people, including new immigrants, from Chelsea, Everett, Boston, etc.?

  9. Greg says:


    You have not heard from SCC proponents regarding long term Somerville residents because this is a Federal funded project via HUD. You hit the nail on the head with your last sentence. SCC puts their spin on the development by saying it’s to keep Somerville residents from being displaced, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    SCC’s middle name might be Community, but their last name is Corporation and believe me they are into maximizing their ROI.

    Doesn’t anyone else think it’s super hypocritical and sleazy of SCC to join forces with a big ol bad for profit developer like CPI??? It kind of goes against everything SCC claims they stand for, unless they are truly frauds.

  10. MarketMan says:

    Guillermo: Why do you think you’re entitled to live in Somerville? There is only so much room in Somerville. Should everyone that wants to live here and feel entitled to live here be set aside a special home at the rate that they can afford? That’s essentially what advocates of “affordable housing” seem to argue. As Jim points out, there are plenty of people that will still be priced out of “affordable housing” because they aren’t poor enough to make the cut and aren’t rich enough to afford market rate. So then what? What if they feel entitled to stay here? What if YOU fall in that category?

    I really wish Porsche did that for customers… I feel entitled to a Porsche, but can only afford about $300/month for a car. Where’s my “affordable Porsche”???

  11. Julia Prange Wallerce says:

    MarketMan, comparing the need for a luxury car to that of basic housing is pretty off the mark.

    Dear Anna and Greg et al,
    I am an SCC employee who is also a homeowner in Union Square. I have been supporting this project long before I started working at SCC in early 2013. I am also part of the demographic that is leaving Somerville in droves- young families in their early/mid 30s.

    I encourage you to do your research before making sweeping negative assumptions about the SCC/Cathartes project, and about SCC itself. Take a look through http://www.everyonessomerville.org.

    You will be pleased to know that SCC is actually devoted to reserving at least 70% of our units to existing Somerville residents, and yes, these apartments will in fact be affordable to moderate income families- that is, a family of 4 making about $60,000/year. This building will also contain 10 3-bd apartments which is incredible hard to find in this city- and it is exactly what families with children need.

    I want to emphasize that this property is within a stone’s throw of TWO pending Green Line stations- which gives light to both the common traffic/parking concern and that of affordability and displacement. The people who live in this development will not be using their cars all the time- why would they? They are within walking distance of both the T, 6 bus lines, a Hubway station, and all the great amenities of Union Square (which I love!). At the same time, the demand to live in Union Square will skyrocket, even more than the 125% that the property values here have already skyrocketed in recent years. If we don’t make the effort to increase our housing supply, and ensure that a portion of those homes are affordable to low and moderate income households- well, I think I’m preaching to the choir here. Between Cambridge and Davis Square, we are surrounded by reminders of what happens to a community when real estate demand goes UP (usually as a result of new/improved transportation infrastructure) and supply- a diversified supply- does NOT.

    This is our chance to do it right here in Union Square- while there is still time. The time is now, and this project is right for our neighborhood
    (which, btw, is about to change drastically, with or without this development! http://ci.somerville.ma.us/departments/ospcd/economic-development/union-square-revitalization-plan)

  12. amen says:

    Guillermo–you’re really misrepresenting this when you describe who’ll be living there. No librarians or city employees. Single mamas with fiancé-baby daddies crashing there illegally. Read the federal guidelines, these will be people from all over. People are worried about losing families, elders, students, those who have made up our city and will be priced out of Union, like they were in Davis.

  13. Joe Beckmann says:

    “Affordable” means precisely that: targeting incomes at less than $60,000 and more than $35,000, depending on family size. And SCC does, indeed, give priority to long term Somerville residents. It’s lies like the ones repeated in these responses that stir a pot of mis-information. Tea-Party Local. Too bad, because your kids won’t be here, nor will your grandma.

  14. MarketMan says:

    Joe: You made might point. “Affordable” means affordable to a range of incomes. If your range is correct, then those below $35k and those above $60k don’t qualify. $60k is not enough to afford market rate these days. So why are we giving special privilege to people within a particular income range? Why are they entitled to housing in Somerville? So what if someone’s making $60k a year and qualify, should they avoid working hard for that raise? Because if they do, they’ll be bumped out of affordable housing??

  15. MarketMan says:

    Julia Prange Wallerce: I don’t think my comparison is off the mark at all. It’s a logical comparison. My point is that everything has a market price. Why should we set aside a certain amount of a product (housing, cars, anything) for people that feel that they are entitled to it? There are plenty of places to live. Why do people feel that they have the right to live in Somerville even if they cannot afford it? I live in Somerville because I can afford Somerville. I cannot afford to live in certain parts of Brookline, Cambridge, Boston, Newton, Winchester, Belmont, etc. I am not trying to advocate affordable housing in those towns for *my* income bracket. I am not entitled to live in those towns. And that is my point. People live and buy what they can afford. By your arguments, maybe we should also set aside housing for people in remote villages around the globe living on $2 a day who would love to live in Somerville.

  16. amen says:

    Julia–one of the most frustrating statements in this city–NOBODY who lives/works there will be using their cars. ???? You know this? they’ll all use the subway? won’t need to get kids to school/daycare first? won’t be working in the other direction? This argument is used whenever something’s going to get dumped on a neighborhood. My neighborhood bought this, “everyone will be walking” Not so, not at all. Unless you get something signed that they won’t be using them, STOP saying this.

  17. Unioned says:

    Why is it that people are always complaining about the prospect of existing residents of Somerville (and their families) not being able to afford housing here? How insulting. I’ve never heard anyone in Brookline (for example) say they are afraid their kids won’t be able to live there. If I was a lifelong resident who worked hard to make the city as desirable as it is today, it would really bother me that the SCC thinks only them can I find a place to live. Yes, it’s getting more expensive … would anyone rather live in Lawrence? Housing is still cheap there.

  18. amen says:

    Unioned: I don’t believe Brookline has gone through the dramatic changes Somerville has. Red Line, Davis, etc. have put rent and mortgages through the proverbial roof. I’m near Davis, and watched as family after family got priced out of their apts, and left. As our kids and grandkids went out on their own, they couldn’t touch a property here. I bought near my family, but my kids now can’t do that. That’s what people are talking about.

  19. Marie says:

    Also, there is no limit or regulations on condo conversions like we used to have. Every time a house is turned into condos it takes a rental apartment out of circulation, thus making it harder and harder for families to find housing. They always tell us to be glad because our property values are so high, but that is only a good thing if you want to sell or refinance. Until then, it only means your taxes go up, which is pricing Seniors out of your homes because they are on a fixed income.

  20. Robt says:

    Send those poors a’packin and slap the food stamps out of their hands while you’re at it! Let them eat what they can afford!

  21. MarketMan says:

    Marie: This has been a problem for a long time in many places around the country, and probably the world. I have yet to hear of a good solution.

  22. Joe Beckmann says:

    Marketman, you’re really wrong. The high rises over the new North Point subway (moved Lechmere) station will have a $100,000,000 subsidy by building on that Green Line foundation. The Cathartes condos on Washington Street will have a similar subsidy from both Washington and Union Square stations. When Tammany Hall built the first subways in New York, in 1903, the built them to farms in uptown addresses, which, within a few years, were high rises in Harlem owned by … Tammany politicians. Don’t pretend that “the market” isn’t without it’s public tuning forks, and, given such well played games, the only way we’ll have teachers, cops, librarians and other city workers living here is through ventures like this one.

    And such ventures most surely won’t hurt the neighbors, who have already captured an appreciation value of 10 to 15% per year for the past fifteen years. If they didn’t, at least I did, and I live three blocks from this project. Subways make lots of money for their neighbors, and even the prospect of that kind of money has multiplied the value of my house by a factor of seven times in 15 years.

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