Looking Ahead: IBA’s Affordable Housing Outlook for 2020

Looking Ahead: IBA’s Affordable Housing Outlook for 2020

When Mayor Martin J. Walsh took office, he pledged to add 53,000 residential units to Boston’s housing stock – a number that was increased to 69,000 in 2018 in order to keep pace with demand. In November 2019, Mayor Walsh announced that the city had surpassed the permitting of 30,000 units. Now, with less than a decade left to close the remaining gap, it is crucial that the City of Boston and Commonwealth pass progressive policies to spark residential development in 2020.

As we look to the year ahead, here are the top affordable housing policies that we’re tracking:

  • Home rule petition to create a transfer tax: At the end of 2019, Mayor Walsh signed a home rule petition, a request from the City to the state legislature for a new type of governing mechanism or power, to create a two-percent transfer tax on real estate transactions of $2 million or more. The tax would apply to both commercial and residential transactions, and could raise $168 million to help create and preserve low-income housing. Now, the petition is heading to the State House, where Boston will join communities like Somerville and Nantucket in pushing for a proposal that would allow municipalities to tax transactions above the state-wide median without the approval of state lawmakers.

  • Home rule petition to strengthen the Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) and update the Linkage program: In September 2019, Mayor Walsh signed a home rule petition that proposes to codify the IDP, pre-existing legislation that requires new residential projects to include income-restricted units on-site or at nearby properties, or contribute funding for affordable housing projects through the IDP Fund. Mayor Walsh’s proposal would also allow the City to make annual adjustments to Boston’s Linkage program, which funds low-income housing developments and workforce training. The petition has momentum in the State House, and we are hopeful that it will pass in the legislature and create more housing and economic opportunities for Boston residents.

  • Housing Choice Bill: This year, Governor Charlie Baker’s Housing Choice Bill is expected to go to the State House for the third time. The bill expands upon the Governor’s Housing Choice Initiative, setting a goal of building 135,000 new housing units by 2025. It would allow cities and towns to make zoning changes with a simple majority, rather than requiring the current two-thirds majority. This bill is expected to increase the number of multi-family homes in communities that may otherwise be resistant to development, expanding rental and home ownership opportunities throughout the Commonwealth.

  • Increased support from the business community: During his State of the City address, Mayor Walsh pledged $500 million in spending for residential pilot programs and the development of affordable housing over the next five years. This plan will rely substantially on major companies to contribute to a fund, which may be utilized to create income-restricted housing, support the renovation of existing properties, give assistance to those looking to buy their first home, and more. This initiative is still in the early stages, but it demonstrates that business and civic leaders must collaborate together to ensure that Greater Boston’s employees can remain in the city in which they live and work.

As an organization that has been fighting gentrification and pushing for more equitable housing opportunities for over 50 years, we are looking forward to joining lawmakers and community leaders as they work to make the City and Commonwealth more financially accessible to low-income residents. We’re excited to see what opportunities the new decade will bring for our residents and for the Greater Boston community.

We are proud to be working to develop housing opportunities for low-income households and minority residents in Boston. For more information about Resident Services or Affordable Housing, please contact Mayra I. Negrón-Roche at (617) 927-1708 or