Activist state

Councilors and lawyers urge mayor on affordable housing

Mayor Michelle Wu, joined by members of the Boston City Council and local housing officials, held a press conference at the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance in Dorchester to discuss steps the City of Boston is taking to return access to the property accessible to all residents. PHOTO: JEREMIAH ROBINSON, MAYOR’S OFFICE

Affordable housing advocates gathered last week to demand the city take action on Boston’s lack of affordable housing, calling on the Wu administration to increase the number of affordable rental units, hold developers accountable for their affordable housing agreements and to create affordable housing. opportunities for city residents.

While Mayor Wu has announced plans to prioritize these measures, activists say it’s not happening fast enough.

On Friday, the City Council Committee on Housing and Community Development held a hearing to discuss the state of affordable housing and the city’s Inclusive Development Policy (IDP). Led by councilor Kendra Lara, chair of the committee, the three-hour hearing consisted of speaker after speaker demanding that more be done to keep luxury development and displacement at bay.

“How soon can we eradicate this housing crisis?” one woman asked those gathered at City Hall and via Zoom.

Bostonians currently face a tough housing market, with evictions resuming after the pandemic moratorium ends, and evictions are affecting people of color at disproportionate rates, according to Homes for All Massachusetts, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. Additionally, the researchers point out that Boston’s speculative market excludes residents of low-income neighborhoods.

Critics say the problem will continue to get worse if one of the mechanisms designed to counter these issues – the Boston IDP – is not updated. First created by executive order in 2000, the policy requires market-priced residential developments with 10 or more units requiring zoning relief to support the creation of limited-income housing through on-site units, off-site units or by payment to the IDP Fund managed by the Mayor’s Housing Office. Currently, 13% of units built must be affordable, with affordability considered to be 70% of the area median income (AMI).

The Coalition for a Truly Affordable Boston, many of whomThe members spoke on Friday, it’s demand that the city lower the threshold of units that trigger IDP, increase the required proportion of affordable units to 33% of new developments, and define affordable as 40% AMI for rentals and 50%-100% for condominiums.

In response, Wu’s office promised to conduct a feasibility study of potential changes to the IDP. Scheduled to take a few months, the study will look at a range of options to update the policy, including increasing the proportion of units with limited income to at least 20%, deepening the requirements for affordability, increased contribution fees to the IDP Fund and “other reforms to better meet Boston’s housing needs.”

Wu on Tuesday announced a proposal to invest $106 million to expand homeownership opportunities for Boston residents, including $60 million through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and $46 million dollars in municipal funds over three years.

In her announcement, the mayor said she hopes to increase homeownership opportunities for households in communities of color and among first-generation buyers.

“Homeownership is critical to creating generational wealth and long-term stability for families,” Wu said. “We have an opportunity to transform homeownership in Boston. These investments will support existing programs for first-time home buyers, create generational wealth for Boston families, and help Boston become a Green New Deal city.

Part of his administration’s proposed operating budget and federal spending plan filed earlier this month, the proposal includes $60 million in ARPA funds to accelerate production of affordable units, support down payment assistance and expanding the ONE+ Boston Mortgage program, which lowers interest rates for income-eligible buyers.

The ONE+Boston program offers qualified buyers interest rate discounts based on income. Boston residents who earn between 80% and 100% of the AMI receive a 0.5% discount rate on the reduced interest rate offered through a state program and residents who earn less than 80% of the AMI will receive up to 1% off the current state mortgage rate.

It is proposed that funds from the proposed operating budget for FY23 be used for the completion of home ownership units currently under construction over the next several years.

Wu is expected to make this proposal to the city council this week.

“Devoting these federal funds to affordable, first-generation homeownership will ground our families in Boston and help close the racial wealth gap,” said Councilor Kenzie Bok, chair of the COVID-19 Recovery Committee. 19. “I am grateful for the Mayor’s partnership and for all of the advocates who pushed the City of Boston to make this enduring commitment.”