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Wu announces start of housing policy: Could seek to require developers to provide more affordable housing, will seek authority for real-estate transfer fee and will look at drafting a rent-stabilization law

Mayor Wu announced today she's ordered up studies on several potential ways to increase the amount of affordable housing in Boston, including increasing the number of affordable units developers have to build or help pay for and using more city land for development, which the city can do on its own, and creating a real-estate transfer fee and establishing rent stabilization, which would require approval of the state legislature and governor.

Wu also wants to look at how to "deepen" the city's current definition of affordable, which is based on the median income not just in Boston, but in surrounding communities, which include such well off cities and towns as Newton, Wellesley and Brookline.

Among the changes Wu wants studied: Increasing the current minimum percentage of affordable units for new residential construction from 13% to 20% and to apply that to projects with fewer than the current 10-unit minimum.

She also plans to look at increasing the housing "linkage" fees that developers of commercial buildings - including life-sciences labs - pay. The money from these fees goes into a BPDA fund used to acquire or maintain affordable housing units.

In recent years, the city has developed new zoning in some fast growing areas - such as along Dorchester Avenue in South Boston and Washington Street in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury - under which developers are allowed to build denser projects than would otherwise be allowed in exchange for a higher percentage of units being rented or sold as affordable. At the same time, the Zoning Board of Appeal has sometimes questioned what appears to be a growing number of nine-unit proposals - exempt from affordable-unit considerations, which only start with 10-unit projects.

Wu also wants to look at accelerating the sale or lease of vacant or little used city property for housing. Under policies begun under Marty Walsh, the city has sold off a number of vacant or parking lots in Nubian Square for housing. The Walsh administration also began looking at putting housing atop on some city buildings, such as fire stations and libraries.

All of that can be done through action by the City Council and Wu.

However, Wu also wants to look at other ways to increase affordable housing in Boston, including by levying a new tax on real-estate transfers in Boston, with the money going into an affordable-housing fund, and by looking at ways of "stabilizing" rents in the city.

Wu said she will set up a Rent Stabilization Advisory Group "to consider the tools available and necessary to protect tenants and stem displacement, with a goal of drafting legislation for the next state legislative session."

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Comments

At last a Mayor who “gets it” and is willing to act.

Boston *desperately* needs more housing that is within the economic reach of its residents - luxury condos and commercial labs, offices and retail buildings that displace lower and middle income families while offering crumbs.

The “developers and biotech investors” will go elsewhere if more is demanded of them mantra is baseless in a magnet city of finance, healthcare and top notch educational institutions.

Let’s act now.

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Voting closed 29

Congrats if you don't qualify for "affordable" housing... market-rate housing just got even more out of reach as you subsidize other units being built.

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Voting closed 75

Does the transfer fee applies to the amount on the deed or to what you say you paid?

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Voting closed 18

Real estate isn't like buying a used car off Craigslist. No, people don't fudge the numbers. There is a huge paper trail and no one would be helped by lying.

You know nothing about real estate. Sorry.

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Voting closed 36

Notfrom is no doubt applying the Donald Trump model of real estate transactions, where all numbers are subject to fudgery.

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Voting closed 16

Easiest way to increase affordable housing with the least impact to residents is to require the colleges and universities to house their students on campus and then allow them to build dense enough to do so. When the schools closed for COVID, rents dropped 20%. The weeks after they all announced they were going back to in-person, rents skyrocketed back to pre-pandemic levels.

COVID gave us the ultimate real world study on this. Why we are wasting that data is beyond me.

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Voting closed 64

Deed-restricted Affordable units are not a solution. Once they go to resale (which often happens 5-10 years after they are built) they get snapped up by buyers with low taxable income who are not "poor" and definitely not working class, like trust-fund kids, surgeons in residency, and retirees with fat retirement accounts.

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Voting closed 52

San Fran has a similar policy, and it was a part in creating the highest rent costs in the country.

No plan will ever be successful without a massive increase in housing construction.

Anyone notice how, when universities went remote last year, rent dropped? The schools contribute to the cost, because they have created a massive demand on rental units from their students. Is there a way to force them to contribute to the fund, given that they contribute to it?
… yes I know those students contribute to the economy. Anyone living in those units would contribute, so it’s a moot point.

Also, transfer fee? You want people selling units, to increase supply in the market (which lowers costs). Why disincentive someone to sell?

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Voting closed 47

They fail their intended purpose upon resale.

So not only does it fail at remaining affordable, but adds PITA to enforce and pay attention to.

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Voting closed 21

Would rather see broad up zoning across the city allowing triplexes by right rather than a token amount of ‘affordable’ housing personally

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Voting closed 44

A phased but wholesale upzoning would make a lot of sense, particularly paired with better parking policies. One of the last hyper local excuses I find somewhat legitimate (but terrible).

I wouldn't mind if this was paired with *some* housing policies that offered stability but also allowed elements of the free market to work.

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Voting closed 14

for housing if you had to live above a fire station.

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Voting closed 20

I would love to live above a library.

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Voting closed 17

And deal with miles long lines for covid tests and victory chocolate?

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Voting closed 8

you'd have to go into the library to go home, y'know.

/I've lived adjacent to both the Boston and New York marathon routes. Dealing with the occasional government giveaway at a library would still be less inconvenient.

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Voting closed 17

I am all for innovation in housing, and living spaces in unusual places can be cool, but I think living over a fire station might be a little distracting.

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Voting closed 19

A rent to own co-op. You start vesting after a year of market rent and then get your investment back plus an agreed amount of interest (when you move out). This credit could even be restricted to a down payment for new home. This would be less than current real estate appreciation but protected from swings in value. Part of your payment would credit toward Maintenace like an HOA fee. The building would be either started by the city or a non-profit, but if run properly would be able to maintain itself.

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Voting closed 21

Clarity needed. Both Linkage and Inclusional Development Policy funds (IDP) are invoiced and collected by the City of Boston Treasury. They are enshrined in Article 80 documents executed between the BPDA and the developer. Both Linkage and IDP are legitimized by the zoning code. Also, both have had their percentages increased substantially by the previous administration.

https://www.boston.gov/news/passage-legislation-support-creation-afforda...

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Voting closed 15

When the mayor says "deepen" the city's current definition of affordable”, she means “lower” right? Excluding newton incomes would lower the median income of the sample, right? So fewer people would qualify for ‘affordable’ housing, but more of those who do would be able to find ‘affordable’ housing.

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Voting closed 22

Still seeing developer pal and champion of un-affordable housing Sheila Dillon on the dais with Saint Wu today!

Hard to believe that of all the Walsh holdovers that bolted the Hall when Janey took over, Sheila somehow still kept her job.

Oh, well.

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Voting closed 15