The City of Boston’s Innovative Approach to Affordable Housing
Access to affordable housing remains one of the foremost challenges for Greater Boston residents. According to a recent poll conducted by WBUR, 76 percent of participants indicated that they were “very dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied” with the high cost of housing stemming from Boston’s low vacancy rates, high-demand rental stock and competitive home ownership process. In coming years, this frustration may only grow more severe, with Boston’s population projected to reach over 700,000 by 2030. In order to achieve the city’s goal of generating 53,000 residential units by 2030, Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently unveiled several programs designed to stimulate the construction of low-cost rental properties, fill unoccupied rooms and reduce homeless. Here’s a roundup of the recently launched housing initiatives:
- In collaboration with the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation and Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the city has launched an $8.5 million loan fund to assist non-profit developers purchase vacant or underutilized parcels for the construction of low-income housing. By providing upfront financing, the fund will help non-profit community developers compete with for-profit firms that have easy access to capital, bridging the gap between acquisition and the time needed to procure long-term project funding.
- Based upon 2016-2017 statistics, 5 percent of undergraduate and graduate students in Boston live off-campus, occupying much of the available workforce housing stock. In order to alleviate market pressure, the Elderly Commission, startup firm Nesterly and Mayor Walsh’s Innovation Lab are partnering to leverage over 38,000 spare bedrooms unoccupied throughout Boston. Currently in its trial stage, the program pairs graduate students with elderly community members and empty-nesters who have spare rooms available for rent, establishing a mutually-beneficial partnership that fosters companionship and, ultimately, below-market rental rates.
- According to The Boston Globe, more than 100,000 people have experienced homelessness in Boston since 2008. The Walsh administration hopes to ensure that all families and individuals have secure housing, aiming to end chronic and veteran homelessness by 2018. A new municipal pilot program, known as the Landlord Guarantee, incentivizes renting units to formerly homeless individuals, offering to reimburse landlords up to $10,000 in associated costs or losses, such as possible property damages, unpaid rents or potential court proceedings. The program has set a target of helping 30 families and 30 individuals within the next two years, bolstering the quality of life of many of Boston’s most vulnerable citizens.