Boston’s largest homeless housing complex could come to Jamaica Plain

News Jamaica Plain
A rendering of the proposed Pine Street Inn development for Washington Street in Jamaica Plain.
A rendering of the proposed Pine Street Inn development for Washington Street in Jamaica Plain. RODE Architects via Boston Planning and Development Agency

A six-story development proposed in Jamaica Plain would be the largest permanent homeless housing complex in Boston if it wins city approval.

Pine Street Inn formally filed plans with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) in March to construct the 225-unit building at 3368 Washington St. that the nonprofit says will focus on serving chronically homeless disabled adults.

The nonprofit’s executive director and president, Lyndia Downie, told some clients can often be on the streets for over five years, or possibly up to a decade.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, considers “chronically homeless” as homeless for at least a year or “four episodes of homelessness” within the past three years.

While income is a challenge, individuals with disabilities often have difficulty finding housing security, which Downie said is “almost impossible.”

“This housing is really designed to meet that need,” she said of the proposal.

The project calls for 140 units that would serve Pine Street Inn clients, with the additional 85 available for households that earn between 60 and 80 percent of the area’s median income, according to the BPDA. Downie said the complex would feature a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments.

The site, just under an acre, is a short walk from the Green Street MBTA station. It is currently home to a single-story building Pine Street Inn uses for administrative purposes and as a warehouse.

The redesign and build-out would include an on-site office for Pine Street Inn staff, along with resident amenities and community space, according to plans. Sixty parking spaces and storage for 80 bicycles are also proposed.

An initial price tag comes in around $50 million, according to Downie, who said costs would be both privately and publicly funded.

The complex would present a significant influx in the number of residences Pine Street Inn operates in Greater Boston.

The Washington Street development is roughly the size of a fourth of the total units it either owns or leases. Downie said the organization currently has just shy of 850 units in its inventory, with more supportive housing than shelter beds.

The addition would far surpass its largest housing development, too, at 52 units, she said, adding that operating such a facility in some ways becomes easier with scale.

The proposal also comes in tandem with a major milestone for the organization, which first opened its doors five decades ago this year.

“Part of our goal as we turn 50 is to have 1,000 units in our portfolio across the city and in Brookline, and we’re getting close,” Downie said. “This certainly helps us get there.”

In Massachusetts, the homeless population rose between 2017 and 2018, according to HUD data, which showed a 14 percent jump, or approximately 2,500 people. The increase brought the total, estimated population to 20,000 people — a five-year high.

Advocates say those numbers could in fact be higher than what’s on paper. Some have said the rising cost of housing across the state has played a key role.

Downie, who said more and more people have found their way to the Pine Street Inn recently, also pointed to the local housing market’s low vacancy rate.

“It’s really about giving people not a new lease to a new apartment,” she said of supportive housing. “It’s a complete new lease on life for someone who’s been homeless five or six years to get a new place.”