Walsh outlines plans to spur middle-income housing

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/03/08/walsh-outlines-plans-to-spur-middle-income-housing/

BOSTON – Mayor Marty Walsh sketched out plans to push down the costs of building and owning housing to foster development of more units that middle-income Bostonians can afford in a speech Tuesday to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau.

In his remarks, which touched on his economic development efforts over the past year, Walsh cited permits issued in 2015 for 4,194 middle-income housing units. He also described several pilot programs from the city’s Housing Innovation Lab that focus on “the diverse needs of the middle-market,” such as zoning relief, developing designs for smaller homes, setting up land trusts for nonprofit groups and creating a one-stop Internet portal to help first-time home buyers find information they need.

All the programs will get started within the next three months and will be completed within a year, Walsh told the research bureau, a private fiscal watchdog group. They were developed over six months as ways to help meet the goals of Walsh’s Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030 plan, which aims to keep city residences affordable for middle-income households.

“We’ll assess the results and build on what works,” Walsh said. He described housing that is affordable to middle-income households as “vital to our workforce.”

“With 30,500 new units either built or in the pipeline, we are at nearly 58 percent of our housing plan’s goal of 53,000 units by 2030,” Walsh said. “Each year, we have increased the number of affordable homes in these totals, including 35 percent of the units approved last year.”

The mayor’s plan it defines middle-income households as those earning from $50,000 to $125,000 a year.

One of the initiatives under study would provide housing developers with incentives to reduce the costs of units by allowing them to put more on a given piece of land than is currently permitted, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. Increased housing density would be permitted on land in strategic planning areas.

Another would use city property for a Housing Initiative Competition in which architects and developers could demonstrate “compact living” designs that are more efficient and affordable, according to the statement.

A third pilot project would create a program to help communities set up land trusts for housing preservation, working with the Greater Boston Community Land Trust Network.