Reimagining Public Housing: Boston Globe Features Dr. Mark Joseph

The Boston Globe has been following the story of the Bunker Hill public housing development in Charlestown that will be redeveloped into a mixed-income development. The Boston Housing Authority recently selected Corcoran Jennison and SunCal to redevelop Bunker Hill, a $1 billion project. Corcoran Jennison is well known for developing Harbor Point, one of the earliest mixed-income developments in the country. For residents of Bunker Hill, the prospect of new housing is intriguing, but it is also unsettling. New housing will bring new residents with a mix of incomes and a new sense of community. Director of NIMC, Dr. Mark Joseph, reflected on the impact for low-income residents based on his experience and research with mixed-income transformation efforts across the country, particularly in Chicago.

Those who are low-income are still really cut off from their neighbors. In some ways, they’re in a worse position,” Joseph said. “They’d say, ‘Before I was being stigmatized by society. Now I’m being stigmatized by my next-door neighbor.’ ”

In Chicago — unlike the concentrated redevelopment that’s planned here — the new buildings were scattered across the city and included fewer low-income units in total than were demolished. That might have helped attract more market-rate tenants, Joseph said, but only 10 percent of the tenants who lived in the old towers moved into the new apartments.

“You’ve got these gorgeous new communities, but only a few get to come back to them,” Joseph said.

Although the Boston Housing Authority is promising that any current Bunker Hill resident who wants to return to the new development will get a spot, there is the risk that return rates will be low. Rates may be improved with support for current residents. Bunker Hill has an advantage because it was also the recipient of $2 million Jobs Plus grant that will help residents increase their earnings, educational opportunities and job placements during the transition.