This story ran on page A13 of the Boston Globe on 6/1/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

BRA will assume control of linkage money
By Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff, 6/1/2000

As controversy continued to engulf the program, Boston Redevelopment Authority director Mark Maloney announced yesterday that his agency will take over management of the city's linkage program, which critics say is now scattered chaotically among several city departments.

In his first major public speech as BRA director, Maloney said the BRA will begin monitoring linkage from the beginning, when payments are first collected, to the ultimate distribution of funds to neighborhoods.

Maloney plans to appoint one BRA official to work closely with project managers, developers and the Neighborhood Housing Trust, the panel appointed by the mayor to distribute the linkage contributions to qualified affordable housing programs.

''We work with developers to ensure that all payments are made on time and in full,'' Maloney said. ''We will work with the Neighborhood Housing Trust to ensure that all funds are received and that all projects designated for the trust funding receive the appropriate allocated amount.''

Some developers, however, questioned why it has taken this long for the city to establish oversight of the program.

''It makes good business sense to see that you're managing your payments as well as maximizing your payments,'' said Rich Krezwick, president of the FleetCenter, after the speech.

Linkage, launched in the early 1980s to spread the economic benefits of downtown development to Boston's outlying neighborhoods, requires commercial developers to contribute to a fund for affordable housing and job training. Since 1986, it has generated more than $45 million and helped build almost 5,000 housing units. At a time of great need for affordable housing, Mayor Thomas M. Menino has proposed raising linkage fees on development from $5 per square foot for the housing component to $7.18 per square foot - a plan that awaits legislative and City Council approval.

But the widely regarded housing-generation program was criticized two years ago in a Boston Municipal Research Bureau report for being poorly managed. The bureau said the city was not keeping track of the funds it should be collecting in linkage or spending on housing programs, according to an October 1998 report by the Municipal Research Bureau. The research bureau recommended that one agency spearhead the work that had been divided among the BRA, the Treasury Department, the Department of Neighborhood Development, and the Inspectional Services Department, where permit applications launch the process.

''There hasn't been really good coordination and communication, to a point where they're not even using current technology to make sure the ISD permit information goes directly to Treasury,'' said Samuel R. Tyler, president of the research bureau, a business-funded watchdog agency.

More is needed on the coordination and communication, Tyler said, ''so you don't have, as we did in the past, issues falling through the cracks.''

Maloney noted that Ed Collins, the city's chief financial officer who works with the Neighborhood Housing Trust, had already made efforts to streamline the collection of funds.

In response to a question about the city's agreement to relay a majority of linkage funds from upcoming waterfront development to South Boston housing development through the Neighborhood Housing Trust, Maloney said that it is unusual to promise 51 percent of linkage funds to the community being impacted by a development.

This story ran on page A13 of the Boston Globe on 6/1/2000.

© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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