A year and a half ago, JPNDC community organizers Giovanny Valencia and Juan Gonzalez encouraged Boston voters to say “yes” to the Community Preservation Act (CPA). TODAY… the CPA is reality, Juan is retired in El Salvador (writing and volunteering), Giovanny is our Community Organizing Director, and on April 3 YOU can speak out about how you want $20 million/year to be spent! Below is the interview from October 2016.

K: What is the CPA?

J: CPA, the Community Preservation Act, is a surcharge that is going to create funds for the City of Boston to create more affordable homes, open space and historic preservation. The calculation is based on 1% of the property tax bill. That means for some homeowners probably what they are going to pay is about $24 a year. It is something that we think is feasible and is not going to generate problems for homeowners. In general, this investment in the community is a benefit. Instead of looking at this as ‘I am going to pay more’ look at is as ‘I am going to contribute to make Boston a better place for everyone.’

G: There are already 160 cities and towns in Massachusetts using the CPA to build affordable housing, parks and open space, and restoring historic buildings for over 12 years so far. That shows that CPA really works. It’s time for Boston to use the CPA.

K: If it were passed, what are some examples of projects that the CPA funds could go towards?

Juan in one of his new roles, volunteering with the Venciendo Barreras Foundation in San Salvador

J: There are some areas, for example when we think about parks or playgrounds, that we can acquire or improve with this money we can acquire. Baseball fields that are in disrepair could probably be fixed. Those are some examples of open space. With the historic preservation we are talking about some historic buildings that the City doesn’t have the money to do the restorations. The CPA makes it possible to submit a proposal to do all the repairs in order to keep the historic value of those buildings.

G: Jamaica Plain is a great neighborhood with great playgrounds and parks but doing maintenance for those parks is very expensive and creating a new park is also very expensive. There are some resources to protect what we have already have but CPA would create more and make it possible to develop new open space. That is very important but for JPNDC, our focus is mostly on the affordable housing. We see that those resources can benefit many, many families all around Boston and especially here in JP where the gentrification is very rapid. The resources for affordable housing are getting smaller and smaller every year. Sometimes an organization like JPNDC struggles to bring the resources we need to the people who need affordable housing the most. The CPA will help us and many other organizations help families to get their very first home or to have a nice apartment. It’s very important.

K: So the money generated by CPA will then be granted to local organizations for them to use on projects that will create affordable housing?

J: There will be proposals to the City and there is a committee that will look at all those projects and then grant them the funds.

[Come to this forum in JP on April 3, 2018 to speak out about how CPA funds should be spent in our community!] There are some particular rules, like every year at least 10% of the money should go to open space, 10% to historic preservation and 105 for affordable housing. With the remaining 70% this committee is going to allocate the resources where it is needed. 80% that would be the maximum amount of funds an area could receive. It really depends on the projects. There are some possibilities to combine all of them. For example, a historic building could be affordable homes and that could contain some components of an open space too. The combinations are good.

Centre Street stand-out, October 2016

K: How could Jamaica Plain benefit from the CPA?

J: There are several buildings in JP that would benefit from historical preservation. Blessed Sacrament is a very historic building and they need money in order to preserve that building. CPA could be a good resource for that. There are some other buildings in the area like Green Street where there are two buildings that were hotels many years ago. Some restoration around the history of the area could be funded. In Franklin Park there were so many cages and then when the zoo was transformed they moved the animals to other areas. Around Columbus Avenue there are two or three cages that are in disrepair. I have been there and it’s a nice area but there if there was some kind of project to preserve that and say ‘This is where the bears cage used to be’ that could be fixed and preserved which is cool. There are many places in JP that could benefit from CPA funds.

G: The committee would decide what gets funded.

J: Yeah. The community groups would present different projects to the CPA committee and then they would review all the proposals and then they would grant money to the projects that they feel are the most important.

K: How did JPNDC get involved with the CPA?

Doorknocking for the CPA with Egleston Square Main Street Director Luis Cotto (right)

J: First the Community Preservation Act was passed by the State Legislature in 2000. The law says that towns and cities can approve using the CPA by popular vote. The first campaign in Boston happened in 2001 in Boston. JPNDC became involved as well as other organizations but in the end it didn’t pass. It was close but it didn’t pass. There was a very strong opposition to increasing taxes and was presented by some as hurting people. There was a lot of money involved from corporations and people really reacted to that but it was a close call. Then for several years we have been thinking about when the next time would be the best time to bring CPA to the ballot. Two years ago JPNDC really started thinking about CPA as another tool to generate resources and we began asking for that and the mayor’s election created that opportunity. We were advocating for that last year and then again early this year and now it is a reality.

G: At the State of Our Neighborhood in 2015 and 2016 CPA was one of the topics that the JPNDC promoted. We already have two years of work presenting the CPA to the elected officials and now it is a reality. We have a lot more to analyze now than back in 2001. We can see how other towns in Massachusetts including Newton and Brookline have been doing with the CPA for the past 10 years and we know that CPA works.

K: If it passed, what could JPNDC do with CPA funds?

The City’s new CPA logo

G: There are some projects in the pipeline. We hope we can redevelop all of Jackson Square Site III. It’s going to take a few years and having this funding would really help us to build these affordable units faster. Now with the planning process of JP/ROX the neighborhood is going to see a very fast change with projects coming. The City hopes they can develop or help to develop 400+ new affordable units in the JP/Rox area. The CPA will help us every year to neighborhood affordable homes much faster. This is a no brainer. The CPA is a very, very small surcharge that many home and property owners will pay something like $2, $5, $10 a year. That is nothing. There are exemptions for low-income households and low-income elderly people. They won’t pay those taxes if they are low-income. If you are a homeowner or a property owner you can check how much you may pay if the CPA passes. There is an online calculator from the City of Boston that is available to everybody.

J: Just thinking about housing, the money could be used for new housing or to rehab existing housing that is in need of refinancing or additional money to repair it. CPA could be used for that. CPA can also be used for some particular resources such as vouchers for people who are struggling. There are some other cities that have been doing that. It’s a combination of different opportunities for affordable homes and affordable housing.

G: It is so important that most of the elected officials in Jamaica Plain and Boston endorsed the CPA. Mayor Marty Walsh is also supporting it.

UPDATE, March 2018: What can people do now that the CPA is reality?

G: Come to the CPA Forum in Jamaica Plain on April 3! It’s your chance to make your voice heard about how the new funds should be spent.

April 3, 2018: CPA forum in Jamaica Plain