What should the next Mayor of Boston focus on when it comes to affordable housing?

What should the next Mayor of Boston focus on when it comes to affordable housing?

With the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine taking place across Boston, many people—including all of us at IBA—are feeling more and more optimistic about the possibility of finally reaching the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, just because we can see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t mean that Boston’s work towards providing an equitable and just recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic is over; in fact, it has only just begun.

One of the biggest concerns that the city of Boston faces in terms of supporting its citizens is the issue of affordable housing. The COVID-19 pandemic has put immense stress on renters across the city, with layoffs, cut work hours, and unexpected financial challenges causing Boston’s residents to struggle with paying rent. IBA and many other community organizations based in Boston have been working hard to support these tenants with affordable housing services—you can see the work that IBA has done to support its affordable housing community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2020 Annual Report—and are looking forward to working with the City of Boston in continuing these efforts this spring, summer, and beyond.

A key part of Boston’s long-term response to the issue of affordable housing will be its election of a new Mayor in November 2021. Whoever is elected will work with organizations like IBA to identify and address challenges surrounding affordable housing, which are often staggering. In the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s groundbreaking 2005 report “The Color of Wealth in Boston”, we learned that the black Bostonians have $8 in net worth, compared to $245,000 for white Bostonians; Latinx communitiesin Boston are similarly socio-economically underrepresented, with only 21% of Puerto Ricans and 17% Dominicans in Boston owning a home.

These stark differences were made even more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Latinx showing the highest rates of COVID-19 infection in Boston (30%). As a social determinant of health, housing was a big factor in creating the disparities demonstrated during the pandemic. It is with all of this in mind that IBA calls for the next Mayor to focus on housing as an economic mobility and public health imperative. The next Mayor should:

 Increase the production of housing that is affordable for low- and moderate-income families by continuing to work towards the Housing Boston plan’s goal of building 69,000 housing, and increasing the number of on-site affordable units.

 Sustain and increase funding by ensuring that sources like inclusionary development, linkage, and community preservation funds are dedicated to the care of existing units and the creation of new affordable units.

 Find new sources of revenue to accelerate the creation of affordable housing by tapping federal resources, such as COVID-19 relief funds.

 Address the challenge of homelessness by stepping up efforts to build more supportive housing.

 Close the racial homeownership gap by expanding the ONE+ Mortgage program, growing this fund so that more first-generation home buyers of color have down payment assistance.

 Continue to fund rental assistance support for families that are still struggling from the impact of the pandemic.

 Stay focused on these goals, and add a racial equity lens to each effort and goal. It will be important for the next Mayor to address where units are built, ensure that the units are affordable, and guarantee access to BIPOC renters and prospective homeowners.

 Track and measure progress on housing goals, and share the progress on the goals publicly on a quarterly basis.

To learn more about how the 2021 mayoral race is addressing these and other issues surrounding affordable housing in Boston, you can check out a recent mayoral forum sponsored by Boston’s Wards 4 and 5 Democratic Committee. During this forum, five of the mayoral candidates discussed their unique approaches to addressing affordable housing challenges in Boston.

All of us at IBA are excited to see how the mayoral race turns out, and look forward to working closely with Boston’s next mayor to find a solution to the problem of affordable housing.