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Executive Order Issued to Strengthen Child Care Zoning Regulations

Mayor Wu signed an Executive Order on Inclusion of Daycare Facilities (IDF).

Building on earlier efforts to expand access to high quality child care options throughout the City, Mayor Michelle Wu today signed an Executive Order on Inclusion of Daycare Facilities (IDF). For more than 30 years, IDF zoning regulations have required certain large developments to build child care programs on-site or support the creation of off-site child care programs. The Order makes these zoning requirements more transparent and predictable, providing a stable funding source for the City’s Office of Early Childhood to expand high-quality child care programs. 

“These investments will fund a wide range of programs across the City so every family in every neighborhood has access to safe, reliable, high quality care. Together with our Office of Early Childhood and the Boston Planning and Development Agency, we are ensuring more programs meet the needs of Boston’s working parents and families,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “We look forward to continuing to work with the development community, residents, advocates, and community members to ensure the benefits of growth in Boston are shared equitably across our city so we can all thrive.”

IDF regulations apply to 14 downtown zoning districts and generally apply to developments over either 100,000 or 150,000 square feet. Under the existing rules, developers may fulfill their obligations by creating on-site child care programs or causing programs to be created elsewhere in the City. This language has been interpreted as contributing to a fund that supports and enhances child care in Boston. However, the amount of each child care contribution has been subject to negotiation, which creates an opaque process for developers to navigate and allows for inconsistencies in enforcement. Additionally, the original intention of IDF regulations–to create more on-site child care options for downtown workers–may not match families’ preferences for child care arrangements today or meet the high demand for child care in underserved neighborhoods. 

Mayor Wu’s Executive Order on IDF establishes a clear formula for developers that are contributing to the child care fund instead of directly creating child care programs. This formula is based on a BPDA assessment of typical tenant improvement costs for childcare facilities and was validated by an external real estate finance consultant. There are approximately 3 million square feet of development currently under review which could generate upwards of $3.5 million to support and expand high-quality child care throughout Boston. 

“The Mayor’s new Executive Order establishes a clear, transparent formula to allow the Boston Planning and Development Agency to work with the Office of Early Childhood and the development community to make sure child care obligations are met and to further leverage Boston’s strong real estate market for the benefit of Bostonians who need our help the most,” said Devin Quirk, BPDA Deputy Chief of of Development & Transformation. “This is exactly the clear, strategic direction the BPDA needs to provide on development decisions to help ensure a more equitable growth of our city.”

“Our city is growing and changing, and the need for child care in neighborhoods does not necessarily align with the areas where builders are required to create childcare,” said Kristin McSwain, Director of the Office of Early Childhood. “This Executive Order gives us the flexibility to create high quality childcare where families and children need it most.”

Last fall, the BPDA and the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement partnered to support seven organizations with funds generated by the IDF. The seven grantees focused on expanding seats for infants, children from low-income families, and families who need care outside of traditional business hours. 

The Executive Order is an initial step toward addressing the issues outlined by then-Councilor Wu and Councilor Breadon in 2021 and detailed in a 2020 report from Community Labor United

“Child care is a public good. At farmer’s markets, libraries, and community events throughout Allston-Brighton, I hear directly from families and caregivers on the affordability and accessibility crisis of our childcare ecosystem. Although the City first passed the Inclusion of Day Care Facilities zoning provision over three decades ago, enforcement and compliance have remained inconsistent and requirements have not adapted to the growing crisis,” said Councilor Liz Breadon. “As chair of the Council’s Committee on Strong Women, Families, and Communities, I appreciate the administration’s initiative. I look forward to further collaborating to lower the threshold for IDF, incorporating affordability measures, expanding the geographic scope, increasing transparency and tracking of mitigation measures, and engaging directly with providers, because supporting daycare for working families with children is essential to the long term health of our City.” 

The Office of Early Childhood will use the funds to expand high-quality childcare programs and services in high-need areas of Boston. This will include grants to providers, direct training, and technical assistance opportunities. Funds may also be used to retrofit existing child care facilities for energy efficiency and environmental justice, such as the installation of high-quality air filters. 

The Executive Order requires the Office of Early Childhood to produce an annual report of pre-existing and new child care facilities created by IDF. The report will include the number and location of childcare seats created, the creation of reduced-fee seats, and funding for child care programming, as well as other measures to improve quality of child care programs and services in Boston. Based on the report, the Office of Early Childhood will create a publicly accessible list of child care facilities created under IDF.

This Executive Order builds on Mayor Wu’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care in all settings for infants, toddlers, and all children under five. It also advances her commitment to creating more transparency and predictability in development, with clear and consistent rules to harness Boston’s economic growth for the benefit of Boston’s communities.

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