Real Estate News

With federal funds in hand, public housing also at play in Mayor Wu’s agenda

“When are you actually going to do something about this?” asked John Wheeler, a former Boston public school teacher and minister.

Tenish Wheeler (left) with her father, John, and sister, Tia, in front of their rat-infested apartment at Mildred C. Hailey Apartments in Jamaica Plain. Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Conditions at the Mildred C. Hailey housing complex in Jamaica Plain, one of Boston’s toniest neighborhoods, have become so dire that some residents count the number of rodents they’ve personally killed. They have caulked doorways and stairwells, doing anything to keep the rodents out. And while nearby apartments often sell for more than $1 million, residents here long for basic repairs, new windows, fixes to busted appliances and straining plumbing systems in units that, in some cases, were built more than 70 years ago, the Globe’s Milton J. Valencia reports.

“When are you actually going to do something about this?” John Wheeler, a former Boston public school teacher and minister who lives there, asks management again and again. He raised two daughters there over the last three decades as a single parent and always found a sense of community. But “lately,” he said, “it hasn’t felt like home.”


Such is the challenge the fledgling Wu administration is facing as it explores ways to confront one of the deepest affordable housing crises in the country. She’s armed with millions of dollars in one-time federal funds, courtesy of Congress’s COVID-relief legislation, and has vowed to pump the cash into big-picture solutions, including supporting home-ownership programs and building housing units.

But the far more difficult question is how to preserve and sustain the existing, dated public housing system, which experts say is a crucial part of any solution to Boston’s dilemma.

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