By Beth Treffeisen
Special to the Gazette
The first steps of establishing the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) started to roll out when the City Council’s Committee on Government Operations held a hearing last month at City Hall.
The establishment of the committee is a requirement of the Community Preservation Act (CPA), which Boston voters approved on Nov. 8.
“The CPA has three components: affordable housing, parks, and historic preservation,” said Liz Vizza, the director of Friends of the Public Garden, at the hearing. “We all need all of them to be a healthy, long-term city.”
The CPA funds are expected to generate between $16 and $20 million per year by a small surcharge on local property tax bills that are then maximized when matched by a statewide trust fund.
The CPA will allow the City to use funds generated under its provisions for affordable housing, historic preservation, community preservation, and open space.
The state law requires the establishment of a CPC to make recommendations regarding the use of the funds.
The committee will be responsible for evaluating the community needs of the city and will make recommendations for expenditures from the CPA fund.
“There are five appointees from the mayor and they are usually city employees by statute,” said City Councilor Andrea Campbell. “The Council has an obligation on their side to pool from the community.”
Campbell asked that while appointing people in the future they take a look at diversity and how to best represent the entire city. In addition, she said it is important to look into rotating people from across the different neighborhoods within the city.
The committee will consist of nine members. Mayor Martin Walsh will appoint five of the members and the City Council will appoint the other four members. The members will be appointed for terms of three years and must be residents of Boston, according to the first draft of the ordinance.
Once the committee is formed, they will be expected to hold informational public hearings throughout the communities.
“When possible we ask that the CPC holds public meetings in the evening and in accessible neighborhood spaces, not just City Hall,” said Janota Smith from the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. “We are dedicated to make sure that the CPA administration is focused on equity, accountability, and outreach.”
Austin Blackmon, the City’s head of the Environment Department, said that there are real constraints within the CPA on what projects that can be funded.
“They have to be investments, but extended long-term investments,” said Blackmon. “It cannot replace on-going maintenance. The application would really have to demonstrate that it is not fixing a small thing.”
In terms of affordable housing, low-incoming housing must be for those who have an income less than 80 percent of the area media income, and for moderate-income housing, it must be for people in the bracket less than 100 percent of the area median income.
The revenue from the CPA will start with the first tax bill of next year that begins at the end of August 17. The state matching funding is made each November but it is retroactive for the previous year and won’t begin until the following year.
Vizza, who represents both Friends of the Public Garden and Boston Parks Advocates, hopes that this funding won’t take away the small amount of funds the parks already receive from the City.
“The parks currently only have 1 percent of the budget,” said Vizza. “You see us each year come and beg and challenge you to raise that in the budget and you’ll probably see us again this year.”
She continued, “Parks are the things that make Boston livable. With this revenue now available, let’s make sure not to displace what the parks currently have, but instead leverage them.”
The ordinance creating the CPA was filed on Jan. 11 to the City Council. This was the first hearing to discuss the topic.