If you have children and live in the city, you know about the challenges that can surface. Parking – have you tried to unload a car full of groceries, with a toddler and baby in an infant car seat? Schools – unless you’re paying tuition for a private school, the choices for Boston Public Schools in your neighborhood are slim and there are no guarantees you’ll get your first choice of where you’d like to send your child. Housing – where do I begin? If you were lucky enough to have bought 15 years ago, you might be okay. But as a new family grows – where do they go? According to Zillow.com, the median list price per square foot in South Boston is $628, which is higher than the Boston average of $609. The median price of homes currently listed in South Boston is $749,000. The median rent price in South Boston is $2,800. If you want to buy a 3-4 bedroom home in the 1800-2100 square foot range – we are talking over a $1million. Bananaland.
An eye-opening situation arose this week in my neighborhood. Universal Hub reported that condo owners who where trying to seek a variance to add space to the back of their units were rejected by City of Boston Zoning Board of Appeals. Neighboring residents complained that the expansion could potentially block their light and cut off their air. According to the post on Universal Hub, one abutter who’s lives on E. 7th street for 30 years, said that building in question is already only 23 inches from his home and doesn’t need to come any closer. The abutter also went on to state that he “plans to live there until hie dies and will keep renting two units as affordable no matter what condo flippers do to try to ruin the neighborhood.”
Needless to say, some interesting comments generated on social media. This one caught my eye.
The people wanting the variance are in fact two young South Boston families. They are not developers looking to flip the property. They need the room for their growing families. They were rejected. Meanwhile, developers are getting approved for projects that are reshaping our entire neighborhood – in some cases with very little questions asked. Families want to stay but in the current state of South Boston, will they be able to stay?
There are still many families with a range of housing situations staying in the neighborhood. It’s still a vibrant community – in many ways even more vibrant with the addition of a healthy business district chock full of small businesses and restaurants. The South Boston that I grew up in – a mainly working class neighborhood – is slowly disappearing. Some residents would even say it’s long gone.
There are less and less affordable homes. Are the developers to blame? Are the people who sold for a high price tag and moved out to blame? Are the politicians to blame? One thing is for sure, it didn’t happen overnight. I think it’s a perfect storm of everything. It’s been a wheel in motion on the move for over 25 years. The fact of the matter is with the addition of high profile businesses like GE and Reebok moving into the neighborhood, it will drive up the demand and cost for housing even more. As a result, more local residents will feel the squeeze of the pressure to move for more affordable rent in other neighborhoods or sell their home because the price is right and the quality of life issues – parking, traffic, schools, expenses – are becoming too heavy of a burden to carry.
So can Southie be saved? Will middle class/working class families be able to stay or is it too late? As my grandfather Jim Dahill used to say, “Southie is the best kept secret. It’s only a mater of time before people discover how great it is.” He sure said a mouthful.