Pine Street Inn is looking to convert the Comfort Inn hotel in Dorchester into a permanent, supportive residence for formerly homeless people, part of the organization’s efforts to expand its housing programs.
The region’s largest provider of homelessness services, Pine Street is partnering with the national, nonprofit developer The Community Builders Inc., or TCB, which will purchase the property and oversee its renovation, according to Andy Waxman, TBC’s regional vice president.
“The size of the hotel rooms lines up very well for permanent, supportive housing,” Waxman said in an interview. He said that little renovation will be needed beyond “basically adding kitchenettes to hotel rooms and creating permanent apartments.”
The plan is to create between 105 and 110 single-occupancy apartments at the 900 Morrissey Blvd. hotel, which currently has 130 hotel rooms in 47,000 square feet of space. While TCB will retain ownership of the property, Pine Street will oversee support services, which include housing people, helping them find a job, and arranging a home health aid, said Lyndia Downie, president and executive director of Pine Street Inn.
The two organizations will host a virtual community meeting and question-and-answer session at 6 p.m. Monday, to talk through project goals and hear from residents.
Downie said the new residence will cater toward people facing chronic homelessness — defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development as individuals with a disability who have been homeless for more than one year or who have experienced at least four periods of homelessness in the last three years.
She emphasized that the former hotel will provide permanent housing and will not act as a shelter or transitional home, which would be more likely to trigger neighborhood opposition. Residents will sign a standard affordable housing lease and pay 30 percent of their income as rent. Downie said she hopes that difference will help minimize pushback from the surrounding community.
“Most people think of Pine Street and then think of shelter, and there’s no question that we obviously run a number of shelters,” Downie said. “Oftentimes, when there is resistance, it’s because people think it’s shelter, and people think it’s more transient, and that’s not the case with permanent, supportive housing.”
Waxman said TCB already has a signed agreement to buy the property from its current owner, the Strazzula family, which owns a number of nearby Dorchester properties including Boston Bowl. He declined to share how much TCB has agreed to pay for the site, which is valued at nearly $13.2 million, according to city assessment records.
The project, which was first reported by the Dorchester Reporter, is currently in an “exploratory phase,” Waxman said, which includes “normal real estate due diligence” such as checking the condition of the roof and foundation and estimating costs of renovation.
“We don’t think, from a visual exploration, that there are big problems,” he said.
If the building passes city code inspections, Waxman said, TCB aims to complete its purchase of the property by next summer. Renovations should take between six and nine months, he added, meaning tenants should be able to move in by 2024.
Downie said in addition to new tenants, Pine Street Inn aims to move a number of its current older residents — who face mobility issues — to the Dorchester site, where they will have better accessibility and be more able to remain in the same home as they age.
“They’re on a third floor somewhere, and they really need a building with an elevator,” Downie said. “And as long as they are lease compliant, they’re there for the long-term.”
The average age of a Pine Street Inn tenant is 57, she said. On average, 90 percent of residents remain in their apartment for at least a year.
In addition to rental units, the proposed residence would have common amenities, like shared laundry and sitting areas, and Pine Street Inn will open offices on its ground-level. Downie said case managers will be on-site to help residents.
“The opportunity to create a solution for people who are homeless at some degree of scale does not come along very often,” Downie said. “For this particular group who hopefully end up being tenants, it absolutely changes their life.”