Recently I attended Bisnow Boston’s event Affordable Housing: How Boston is Meeting One of The Modern World’s Most Complex Issues.
I love this topic, because as exciting as it is hearing about large-scale projects and new luxury buildings springing up around Boston, we can’t forget that in order to continue our city’s growth and development, we need to make it sustainable for hard-working people who live here, and provide housing that fits all income levels.
Through two diverse panels, executives in the public and private sectors discussed the key issues surrounding affordable housing today.
One major topic discussed throughout the first panel was the Community Preservation Act (CPA). Panelists stressed the importance for Boston residents to pay attention to the upcoming ballot question and vote to adopt the law in November. I was proud to hear my client, Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, CEO of IBA – Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, passionately explain why Boston needs to enact the law. She stressed that it could generate more than $20 million in revenue for the city to enhance open community spaces and historic preservation, as well as helping to create more affordable housing.
When it comes to barriers to affordability, zoning can be a big factor, and there is a need for developers and city officials to work together to make the process simpler. As the Boston Planning and Development Agency refocuses, Calderón-Rosado highlighted the fact that the Boston landscape has changed significantly over the past several years. It’s important to pay attention to the specific needs of each neighborhood. For example, there is limited land in the South End for off-site affordable housing, so she hopes to see more developers creating it on-site at their projects.
During the second panel, it was interesting to listen to some of the experts in the private sector discuss what the barriers are to building more affordable housing. Costs for land and construction are high, and one of the biggest factors is how time consuming the development process can be. It was also unfortunate to hear from developers just how much resistance there is in many communities throughout Massachusetts to additional affordable housing units. As MassHousing Deputy Director Karen Kelleher pointed out, supply is not keeping up with demand at all levels, and we need to take a more in-depth look at what “middle-income” in the city means today, as well as how to create workforce housing that suits all income levels.
Thanks to Bisnow Boston for an engaging conversation. I hope that more organizations create panels and events around the topic of affordable housing, as it is critical to the well-being of our city.