As an increasing number of people struggle to afford the rising housing costs in Boston, Vanessa Calderón-Rosado wants to ensure the city still has room for the poor. Serving as chief executive of the nonprofit development group Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, she guides the ownership of hundreds of low-cost housing units in Boston. IBA is most recognized for its Villa Victoria housing complex and arts center in the South End, but the agency, which was formed by a group of Puerto Rican activists in 1968, has run several other housing projects and programs. We chatted with Calderón-Rosado about IBA, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
IBA is a local group, but how does what’s going on nationally affect your mission? Our mission is to empower and engage low-income families, through affordable housing and our programs and services. Now more than ever, we feel that work is very important. After Hurricane Maria and the slow and inefficient response from the federal government … we saw a good number of displaced families who came to Boston from Puerto Rico. We were able to step in and help them. … We have permanently housed 10 families at Villa Victoria. … They were on the verge of becoming homeless. … So, we’re very proud that we could help them.
In the South End, luxury condos can now hit $1,000 a square foot. Do you feel IBA’s job is more important than when you joined in 2003? Definitely, more than ever, the work is important, in the South End and in the city. There is no doubt there is a housing crunch in Boston, especially for low-income and moderate-income families. So, to the extent that IBA can continue to preserve affordable housing units … and develop additional units—that’s part of our mission.
What housing does IBA operate in addition to Villa Victoria? Most of our housing units are here in Villa Victoria. We do have, however, other housing developments, speckled throughout the South End, lower Roxbury and Mattapan. One unique development that we have that most people don’t know about is called Residencia Betances, a single-room occupancy development that we renovated and rehabbed three years ago in the South End. It’s very unique … in that we provide housing to formerly homeless clients of the state’s Department of Mental Health. In addition to providing the housing, there are supportive services to the clients. We have two other developments, in lower Roxbury and Mattapan, and both are elderly housing with supportive services.