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Housing

A Livable Boston 

Starts With a Smarter Housing Plan 

Today, Boston is experiencing a housing crunch. We are rapidly establishing ourselves as one of the most desirable places in the country to live and work, but it is becoming more and more expensive to find a home and put down roots here. 

Our world-class universities attract talented students from around the globe; our cutting-edge innovation economy increasingly draws a workforce from across the country; and the high quality of life here is helping bring back many families who once moved to surrounding communities. However, all of this is taking place as working families, lifelong Bostonians, and aging residents are increasingly having a difficult time finding a home in our city as housing costs keep rising and available homes keep disappearing.

I believe we must create a significant amount of new housing opportunities across the city to ensure that all those who want to call Boston their home can afford a home in Boston. As Mayor, I will commit to an aggressive plan for building tens of thousands of new units of housing that will help relieve the high cost of housing that is straining many families and forcing others out of Boston. It is also imperative we do so to keep out economy churning. My housing development plan will empower residents to plan their communities, create more affordable housing units, support broader economic development goals for Boston and our regional economy, preserve neighborhood stability, and support those Bostonians facing housing crises. 

Planning for Growth

I am committed to the goal of building 30,000 units of new housing in the city by 2020 in order to reduce the strain on Boston’s housing market, help lower the cost of housing, and create more opportunities for both market rate and affordable housing options across the city. To achieve that goal, however, we need to modernize our planning processes and zoning regulations to encourage density of housing development across the city. This starts with community-driven planning to provide predictability for neighbors, developers, and City Hall. 

Plan First, Build Second

Boston needs strong goals and clear plans for building housing in all of our neighborhoods. We cannot manage the growth and development Boston needs under a project-by-project strategy. As Mayor, I will:

  • Direct the Boston Redevelopment Authority to operate under a plan first, build second strategy to ensure that development meets the goals of the community.
  • Make three neighborhood-wide planning processes available to the first communities that want them within the first year of my administration. I will not force planning on any neighborhood.
  • Support up-zoning of underserved neighborhoods to spur new mix-rate housing development that will drive broader, faster economic revitalization, in accord with community planning.
  • Accelerate the release of city-owned land for private housing development that meets the goals of host neighborhoods.

Encouraging Transit-Oriented Development

Transit-oriented development (TOD) has the potential to spark investment in parts of our city that need it most. Mixed-use housing and commercial development in close proximity to T stops supports MBTA ridership, sustainable development, and creates greater connections for neighborhoods. As Mayor, I will:

  • Commit to building 10,000 units of new TOD mix-rate housing along the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line by 2020.
  • Support zoning changes to encourage TOD development at MBTA stops and transit hubs across the city.
  • Work with the community to plan first, then build, so that new growth meets the vision of the residents who live there.

Including All Bostonians In Housing Growth

As we build new housing we must ensure that low-income residents, working families, and seniors on fixed incomes are not driven out of the city because of rising rents. As Mayor, I will strengthen our affordable housing policy to create more transparency and make sure our communities get the affordable housing commitments they are promised. If affordable housing is a principle, it shouldn’t be the first thing City Hall trades away when a development comes up for negotiation.

Strengthening Affordable Housing Policy

Inclusionary zoning is the City’s policy that requires new developments to include a minimum percentage of affordable housing units. When applied as intended, the city’s Inclusionary Zoning Policy is a good tool for building affordable housing in Boston. However, too often the policy is loosened during negotiations leading to far fewer affordable units being built than we need as a city. By strengthening this policy we can help many more residents access a home or stay living in their community.

As Mayor, I will:

  • Move all affordable housing policy oversight from the BRA to the Department of Neighborhood Development and codify the policy into law to create more transparency and accountability.
  • Increase the required percentage of affordable housing units in new development to 15%, creating more room for deep discounts for low-income residents and moderate discounts for middle-income residents.
  • Support greater height and density in order to provide an incentive for developers to include affordable units on-site.
  • Tighten pay-out obligations when affordable units are not located on-site to pay for comparable number of units elsewhere.
  • Fight to preserve “expiring use” affordable housing across the city, as I have done time and again in my city council district.

Workforce and Family Housing 

I believe that we not only need to build more housing, we need to build the right type of housing in order to meet the demands of our growing city. More young families are choosing to stay and put down roots in Boston but find the cost of renting or buying a home to fit their family is increasingly out of reach. At the same time, young professionals eager to start a career here are struggling to find reasonably priced, accessible housing options. Boston needs to pursue a housing strategy that supports a range of housing needs for moderate-income households and innovative models to encourage homeownership opportunities.

Housing Options to Meet Our Needs

Growing families with children who need more space, young professionals and elders who may need much less space, and working artists with unique space constraints—Boston needs to build a more diverse array of housing types. As Mayor, I will:

  • Require more two and three bedroom units in new multi-family developments, as I successfully advocated for in the West End neighborhood.
  • Support permitting of “micro-unit” developments near transit hubs in more neighborhoods beyond downtown to help make them more affordable.
  • Support development of more dedicated artist live/work housing, including leveraging inclusionary zoning-based units to support working artists. 

Supporting Homeownership Opportunities

I believe homeownership is a critical tool to helping people put down roots in their community and investing in building strong neighborhoods. We must make the homeownership opportunities more readily available in Boston, foster innovative financial partnerships, and support best practices in homebuying education. As Mayor, I will:

  • Pursue employer assisted homeownership programs, with university and institutional partners supporting first time homebuyers in communities with low homeownership through down payment and closing cost assistance.
  • Encourage more homeownership units in new multifamily developments.
  • Require housing built on city-owned land to include homeownership units.
  • Support and invest in best models in homeownership education conducted by community organizations.

Defending Neighborhood Housing From Institutional Expansion 

Boston’s universities and our large population of college students are an important fabric of our city’s character and spirit. Boston thrives with the energy of students returning each fall. However, many universities and institutions have failed to provide enough affordable, on-campus student housing even as their enrollments swell. As a resident of Mission Hill and the City Councilor with the highest concentration of institutions of any district, I know these issues personally and professionally. I know the strategies we need in Boston to protect neighborhood stability and provide fair and safe housing for our city’s student population.

Expanding On-Campus Housing Options

In neighborhoods like Allston Brighton and the Fenway, landlords are raising rents and fitting in more and more student renters to earn greater income. This has priced out working families, seniors, and working professionals from these neighborhoods. The result is a community with too few long-term invested neighbors as well as lifelong residents being squeezed out of their own communities. As Mayor, I will: 

  • Hold universities accountable for housing students on-campus in housing students can actually afford.
  • Tie the approval of institutional master plans to firm commitments to build new on-campus student housing.
  • Support privately developed student dorms, like I championed with Northeastern University, to quicken the pace of building student housing while earning tax revenue from these private developments.
  • Strongly encourage collaboration between multiple local universities and private developers to build “multi-university graduate student villages” where a number of universities each agree to modest master leases to assure these units will be occupied.

Protecting Renters From Unsafe Housing

With a lack of on-campus housing options huge numbers of college students flood the rental housing market each year. Unfortunately, many landlords take advantage of students willing to fill traditional housing with more tenants than there are bedrooms in order to make the rent more affordable. This is not only unfair for students it is also unsafe. In the past year we have been tragically reminded about the dangers of overcrowding and unsafe housing. A Mayor, I will:

  • Support more resources for the Inspectional Services Department to conduct inspections of problem properties with health, safety, and nuisance complaints.
  • Strengthen regulations holding absentee rental landlords accountable for the physical maintenance their properties and responsible for the behavior of their tenants.
  • Promote a campaign to educate students and other renters of their rights.

Innovative Models to Fight Foreclosures and Homelessness 

While we set our sights high for new growth and opportunity, we must remain focused on protecting and supporting those who are struggling with foreclosure or homelessness. Foreclosures create a destabilizing effect for the families displaced as well as surrounding neighborhoods and we must invest in programs and resources that help keep families in their homes. To support Boston’s homeless residents, I believe we must recognize that the best solution to homelessness starts with a safe home and 

  • Invest in individual foreclosure counseling for immediate assistance
  • Support efforts like Boston Community Capital’s SUN Initiative that helps homeowners repurchase their homes with reduced payments.
  • Expand the number of available emergency shelter beds and access to crisis services for homeless women and children.
  • Invest in innovative Housing First strategies that provide chronically homeless individuals with safe, supportive, and permanent housing.
  • Breakdown silos of social service agencies to provide homeless individuals with wrap around services, both in shelters and permanent housing.
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