Boston Mayor Mulls Affordable Housing Policy Change

By Marielle Mondon | | July 14, 2015

Boston ston is one of several cities that requires some developers to set aside affordable apartments, and the Massachusetts city has handed out those units — some in new luxury high-rises — via a lottery.

Mayor Marty Walsh, however, is reconsidering whether such inclusionary zoning exchanges help or hurt — or do anything at all — about the city’s growing housing crisis.

As it stands, Boston requires that 13 percent of units in new rental and condominium buildings be targeted for more moderate-income residents. Bloomberg Business reports that the Walsh administration is trying to decide whether to change that.

The city is trying to determine under what circumstances developers may be allowed to build affordable properties elsewhere or pay into a housing fund instead of including the cheaper units onsite, said Sheila Dillon, Boston’s housing chief.

“There is a lot of luxury housing being built,” said Dillon … . “We want to create economically diverse neighborhoods and at the same time be efficient and build as many affordable housing units as possible. Therein lies the tension.”

Some question whether putting a few more affordable units in an expansive building can make a dent in Boston’s high cost of living. The city sits among those in the U.S. with the highest median rents.

“It’s a nice gesture but it does virtually nothing to solve the housing crisis,” economist Barry Bluestone, founding director of Northeastern’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy in Boston, told Bloomberg. “There are a lot of areas where it would be cheaper to build middle-income housing.”

Boston developer John Hynes told Bloomberg he could fund at least double the number of affordable housing units in more affordable neighborhoods if he could donate to a housing fund, though that option is meant to be a rare exception for developers.

Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.

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