, Salem, MA

October 23, 2012

Letter: Put money into existing BHA properties

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Tonight at a meeting of the Beverly Zoning Board of Appeals, we will hear a lot of reasons why the board should and should not allow the Beverly Housing Authority to embark on a bizarre project to build four affordable-housing units on a plot of land that includes part of the MBTA parking lot at the Montserrat train station.

We’re going to hear arguments over a lot that may or may not be minimally legal because of some slight-of-hand real estate deal between the BHA and the MBTA, a plot that includes part of a parking lot that will remain an MBTA parking lot.

This by itself is a reason to look at this project with a jaundiced eye. We’ll hear about the pros and cons of putting four housing units at one of the busiest intersections in town. We may even hear about the latchkey children with no place to play except at a busy intersection or a train station. But, all of these arguments pale in light of the most compelling reason to reject this project. We do not need it, and the BHA cannot care for it.

We have some 600 affordable-housing units. That is more than enough to meet any federal or state quotas. However, we have fewer than 10 people to maintain them. Think about the value of your home, and ask yourself what it would be worth if you did not maintain it. Its value would drop like a stone, and if homes around you were equally unattended, your home would decrease in value even faster. So we can argue all day about the legal minutia, but the bottom line is that it is senseless to add more housing units to an agency that cannot or will not maintain them.

If you visit a BHA-managed property, you will see health code violations, fire hazards and building code violations. These places are, by any standard, rundown. Photos posted on a Flickr account document overflowing Dumpsters, broken siding, green and black mold, and broken lawn furniture strewn everywhere. The only appropriate term that comes to mind is slum. We owe more to the residents and the abutters of these facilities.

The new housing units will cost us $1.3 million. Given the state of the current properties, we should put the money into them.

Patrick Lucci