Housing Boston 2030

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High-paying jobs and the increasing draw of city living mean that Boston has remained absurdly popular. As a result, the city has grown even faster than expected. Boston will have 759,727 residents by 2030, up from a 2030 estimate of 709,400 four years ago. That’s the equivalent of adding a Somerville to Boston in a little over a decade. Mayor Marty Walsh’s 2014 housing plan called for 53,000 new units by 2030, a pace the city is actually on track to beat, but that number is now obsolete. Even the largest building boom Boston has experienced in generations, with 18,000 units of housing opened since 2011, isn’t enough to keep pace with the demand to live in the city.

In response, the Walsh administration released a Housing Boston 2030 Update, increasing its target by 30% to 69,000 units by 2030. There will also be added emphasis on creating affordable housing and protecting lower-income renters at risk of eviction, as 22% of the homes will be set at rents affordable to lower- and middle-income residents. According to The Boston Globe, officials estimate that subsidizing that amount of affordable housing will cost the city $50 million annually, along with state and federal money. It will also require funding for a new program to help buy 1,000 existing apartments and set them at affordable rents. However, as Boston is running low on sites for major complexes, particularly ones in or close to its downtown core, the plan will put most of the new housing in the outer neighborhoods, where land costs are lower. The focus would be on a few areas – from Suffolk Downs in East Boston, to the Readville section of Hyde Park – targeted for major development in the city’s Imagine Boston 2030 plan.

The September 2018 Housing Boston 2030 Update focused on three major housing affordability categories:

Production of New Housing

  • Build 69,000 new housing units across a range of incomes by 2030.

  • Redirect development pressures away from core neighborhoods and toward opportunities for growth.

  • Create 15,820 income-restricted long term affordable homes, bringing the total number of income restricted homes in Boston to nearly 70,000.

Preservation of Existing Affordable Housing

  • Retrain Boston’s existing income-restricted/affordable housing, preserving 97% of all affordable housing units and 84% of the 4,000 units in privately-owned affordable units at highest risk of being lost.

  • Rebuild Boston’s public housing by re-developing and renovating up to 4,500 BHD units with both public and private financing.

Protection of Those Households Most at Risk

  • Purchase 1,000 rental housing units from the speculative market and income-restrict them via an expanded Acquisition Opportunity Program, to be counted as part of the 15,820 affordable unit production plan.

  • Prevent evictions and promote housing stability.

  • Strengthen communities through homeownership by increasing the resources the City and others provide to first time homebuyers, offering additional pathways for moderate and middle income families to become homeowners in Boston.

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The Bigger Picture

It’s important to note that the city’s goal alone won’t be enough to alleviate the crisis, as the housing market is regional. If prices are going to ease, more housing will be needed in suburbs that build at a much slower rate than Boston. This is where the Metro Mayors Coalition (MMC) comes in. It is a group of 15 Boston-area communities – Arlington, Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Newton, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, and Winthrop – dedicated to exchanging information and creating solutions for common problems, including housing.

The 15 cities and towns that make up the coalition have added nearly 110,000 residents and 148,000 new jobs since 2010, but they have permitted only 32,500 new housing units. Meanwhile, the region is on track to add 235,000 new jobs from 2015 to 2030. Combined with the imminent retirement of the area’s Baby Boomers, this robust economic growth will attract hundreds of new workers to fill the available jobs. The MMC has set its own goal, as it says that eastern Massachusetts will need 435,000 new units by 2040.

Sources: Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), City of Boston “Housing Boston 2030 Update”, The Boston Globe, Metro Mayors Coalition (MMC)