Affordable housing is one of the largest influencers in determining the socioeconomic diversity and accessibility of some of Boston’s most desirable, high-demand neighborhoods. Yet, many Boston residents are feeling the pressures that come with the rising cost of living: almost half of respondents to a recent poll conducted by Suffolk University and The Boston Globe indicated that they are “very dissatisfied” with the current price of housing. As concerns over gentrification, displacement and the preservation of affordability continue to dominate local headlines and policy discussions alike, we’ve provided some background about ongoing initiatives that stand to transform the present and future state of affordable housing in Greater Boston.
- Imagine Boston 2030: Actively engaging with and incorporating the feedback of 15,000 Boston residents, Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently unveiled the final version of Imagine Boston 2030 – a long-term development plan aimed at establishing a healthier, more equitable, accessible and resilient urban fabric. In addition to improving transportation, climate resilience and other factors that impact quality of life, Imagine Boston 2030 prioritizes the creation of at least 53,000 new housing units by 2030 to help stabilize rent prices, relieve pressure on pre-existing residential housing stock and incorporate growing demand.
The plan further outlines specific initiatives that are designed to preserve or establish new affordable housing opportunities. One such program is the Inclusionary Development Policy, which requires that developers designate a specific number of units as affordable in new construction projects, facilitate affordable housing opportunities off-site or contribute funds towards these housing programs. Although it remains to be seen how affordable housing will be implemented throughout the city, Imagine Boston 2030 indicates that the reduction of living costs will play a significant role.
- Community Preservation Act (CPA): In November 2016, Boston residents voted in favor of implementing the Community Preservation Act (CPA), a 1 percent property tax surcharge that goes toward funding affordable housing, preserving historic landmarks and allocating open and recreational spaces for public use. Although the allotment of CPA funds is largely determined by a board of nine appointed and city council-elected committee members, the CPA has the potential to raise an additional $20 million. At least ten percent of that $20 million must go towards affordable housing. To date, the CPA has been enacted by 172 communities across the state of Massachusetts.
- Several Greater Boston communities are utilizing zoning as a mechanism for integrating affordable housing into new developments. For example, last year, the Somerville Board of Alderman approved an ordinance requiring developers to designate 20 percent of residential units as affordable in buildings with 18 or more units, and 17.5 percent in buildings with 8 to 17 units.
Similar policy conversations are taking place in other communities, with District 7 City Council candidate Deeqo Jibril proposing that 30 percent of residential development should be reserved for affordable housing, a proposition that would impact the District’s Fenway, South End and Roxbury neighborhoods.
As Greater Boston continues to grow and transform, affordable housing will be a critical component of ensuring that residents of all income levels can call the city and its surrounding neighborhoods home. We will continue to track each of these programs and initiatives closely – and hope that you will too!