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Housing with Public Assets

Could building housing on top of — or next to — City buildings, such as libraries and community centers, benefit our communities?

In February 2018, we asked local communities and developers whether combining housing and public assets would work in Boston. We also asked where it should be done. City departments worked together to release a Request for Information and a list of public assets for consideration. We are excited to share with you:

  • all 24 of the responses to the Request for Information
  • what we have learned so far from the responses, and
  • what’s next for Housing with Public Assets in Boston.

Why we did this

Cities in the U.S. and around the world have begun co-developing housing and public assets. This type of effort can bring down costs and benefit communities.

Thoughtful co-location:
  • supports the rehabilitation and repair of City buildings
  • grows our housing stock, and
  • increases housing affordability.

The Experiment

Our hypothesis? By asking for input on where and how we might co-locate housing and public assets, we’ll get a better understanding of what we can do in Boston.

Consolidated questions and answers

We’re always exploring ways we can improve core City assets quickly and efficiently. This includes libraries, fire stations, and community centers. We also care about housing. For the City, that means integrating deeply and moderately affordable units with market-rate units.

We’ve studied how other cities have co-located City assets with housing. By redeveloping, rehabilitating, or rebuilding City assets with housing and other mixed uses, we might be able to give residents:

  • improved structures
  • better services, and
  • more housing opportunities.

We wanted to see if there was interest for this idea in Boston. We also wanted to find where it makes sense to pursue it in the City. Visit the “Results” section to see what we have learned so far.

Results and lessons learned

We received a robust response to the RFI: over 20 responses! Those responses, combined with resident comments and our own research, have led us to some important findings:

  • People want to see this done. We received 24 official responses to the Request for Information from a range of respondents, and hosted a response showcase at the Boston Society of Architects which 70 people attended. We also heard from over 30 residents about what they think about this type of development. Many responses were very supportive, although some residents expressed concern about what this project would mean for parking and open space in their neighborhood.
  • Public benefits (and the necessary trade-offs) should be clearly defined with communities. We should think of Housing with Public Assets as a series of projects in a portfolio, each with neighborhood-specific goals and benefits. The intended benefits (Affordable housing? A new library? Both?) should be clearly defined with the community in a site-specific way. You can read more about this in our recent Medium post.
  • Procurement law isn’t designed for these projects. Housing with Public Assets will only be possible if we can find a legal mechanism that supports coordinated and efficient design, construction and operations while ensuring transparency and fairness.
  • Internal stakeholders are ready to identify the right projects and pathways for this type of development. We have created momentum and collaboration from City leadership, City departments and community groups. They are prepared to partner together and create successful Housing with Public Assets projects in Boston.

How to get involved

Get involved by completing the surveys or comment form below.

Egleston Square Branch Library

West End Branch Library

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