Unlocking the Affordable Housing Gridlock: Three Approaches to Fostering Accessible Community Development

Unlocking the Affordable Housing Gridlock: Three Approaches to Fostering Accessible Community Development

Over the past year, significant strides have been made to expand affordable housing opportunities throughout Greater Boston and Massachusetts. For instance, Boston City Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently increased Imagine Boston 2030’s housing goal to 69,000 new units, 15,820 of which will be income-restricted. However, as the population of Massachusetts continues to grow, additional funding and development strategies will need to be implemented to keep pace with demand and encourage the development of inclusive, diverse communities.

In November, our CEO Dr. Vanessa Calderón-Rosado appeared as a guest on Bloomberg Baystate Radio and outlined numerous ways to encourage affordable housing development on a city- and state-wide level. Here a few approaches that she discussed that we will
continue to promote throughout the year to come:

  • Bolster Home Ownership: The demand for homes that low- and moderate-income households can afford is high. Governor Charlie Baker last year proposed a bill that would allow municipalities across the state to change zoning with a simple majority vote, as opposed to a two-thirds vote. This initiative would make it easier for local governments to increase housing density in the suburbs and construct more affordable condos and homes. The legislation, known as the Housing Choices bill, is currently undergoing committee review.
  • Incentivize Developers to Build On-Site Affordable Units: Boston’s housing market is expensive, often displacing low- and moderate income households that contribute to the city’s booming economy but can’t afford its high cost of living. The Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP), which requires that developers of new residential properties build a certain percentage of affordable units on-site, or satisfy the condition through donating funds or developing housing off-site, could be reworked to more proactively influence developers to construct such units at the main location. The policy could be altered to make it more difficult to opt out of the on-site designation or to increase the percentage of required affordable units as a way to boost production.
  • Increase State Funding for the Community Preservation Act: The Community Preservation Act enables participating municipalities to set aside property tax revenue for the creation and preservation of affordable housing, open spaces and historic sites. When the Act was originally put into law, the state matched each dollar raised by 100 percent. This has since been reduced to under 20 percent. Governor Baker has expressed a willingness to reconsider the state’s contributions, with many hoping for a 50 percent match. This increase would significantly provide additional financing for future affordable housing projects. It’s encouraging that community members, civic leaders and businesses alike are trying to find new ways to make living in Massachusetts more accessible and less financially burdensome. We will continue to advocate for solutions that ensure that low-income and minority individuals and households aren’t pushed to the peripheries, but are rather empowered and provided high-quality housing in the heart of their communities.

We are proud to be working to develop housing opportunities for low-income households and minority residents in Boston. For more information on how you can support IBA, please visit our page: