Opinion » Editorial

How We're Creating Affordable Housing

by Mayor Marty Walsh
Wednesday Aug 16, 2017

Boston is a diverse city made up of residents of all backgrounds, all education levels and job sectors spread out over 14 neighborhoods. Some of us were born and bred here, some with families that have been here for decades, some received a wonderful education or job here and decided to make the move to this city. All these groups make Boston what it is today--a great city that's full of great people.

Together, this diversity makes us stronger as a city, and I believe that anyone who wants to live in Boston and make this city better should be able to afford to do so. And we know, a lot of people want to live in Boston these days.

Our city is growing at historic rates. We will soon have more than 700,000 residents. But for many years, we have not been building enough housing to meet growth, and our increasing population. When too many people compete for too few units of housing, the result is higher rents and sales prices. If we are going to make sure that Boston is an equitable city, we need to stabilize the market, and the only way to do that is to create new housing.

But we have to do so thoughtfully. We have to build at a wide variety of income levels, to make sure that people of varying income levels have options for housing that are at the right price for them.

Our housing plan, Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030, set out to create 53,000 new units of housing, across a range of income levels, by 2030. We recently released a new report that showed that to date, more than 21,000 units have been issued approvals and permits, and of those, more than 13,000 new units of housing have already been completed. Working together with everyone from affordable housing advocates and community residents to private developers, we're beginning to see results that will benefit the entire city.

It's critical that we create new affordable housing opportunities and preserve the affordable housing that we have. We're building on the fact that Boston is a national leader in the creation of affordable housing. Nearly twenty percent of Boston's housing stock is restricted to specific income levels, with the vast majority of these units serving low-income households. These restrictions also mean that these units of housing are protected from the ups and downs of the market.

Even in the face of declining federal funds for affordable housing, Boston continues to create new housing for our low income residents. Since we started tracking progress on our housing plan, more than 1,600 new units for people with low incomes have gone into construction. Nearly 1,380 new units of affordable housing have been completed, and there are almost 1,130 more units in the pipeline.

We must also make sure that we are creating housing for our middle income population, because Boston's middle class is integral to our success. We're building middle income housing in two ways: by requiring developers to include deed-restricted middle income units in their market rate developments, and by working with private developers to find ways they can create housing at lower costs outside our more expensive downtown core.

Already, we have created more than 2,000 units of housing that have legal restrictions that will keep them affordable to middle income households for decades to come.

I'm confident that together, all of this new housing, at a range of incomes, will begin to relieve the pressure that our growing population is putting on the market and that households at all income levels will have improved choice for housing options that they can afford.

To reach these goals, we are making sure that we harness the current building boom for the benefit of the entire city. Through policies like the Inclusionary Development Policy and Linkage, both of which require private developments to raise money for affordable housing, the city was able to allocate more than $54 million for affordable housing in Fiscal Year 2017 -- more than $20 million more than we allocated in Fiscal Year 2015. The result of all of this new revenue means that since 2014, our administration has been able to commit more than $100 million towards the creation of new affordable housing.

Boston is a city that takes care of its residents. Addressing rising housing costs is critical to preserving the diversity and character that makes Boston special. Our housing numbers show that we're making progress, but there is still more work to be done. Our progress to date sets us up for continued success in the future, a future where Boston continues to grow stronger from its diversity and inclusiveness.