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Housing Innovation Lab now a permanent office

July 19, 2017

New Urban Mechanics

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New Urban Mechanics

The lab was created to increase housing affordability by pioneering innovative housing models and systems.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the Housing Innovation Lab, which began as an Innovation Team within the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, will become a permanent office in the City's Department of Neighborhood Development (DND). The permanence of the lab will allow the team to build on the success of its first year in exploring ideas to bring down the cost to build, buy and own homes in the City of Boston.

"Boston is a city for everyone -- and to make sure everyone can afford to live in Boston, we need innovative solutions," said Mayor Walsh. "The Housing Innovation Lab has played an important role over the past year in testing new approaches to solve Boston's housing challenges, and I look forward to more creative initiatives that will help increase housing affordability and housing stability for Boston residents."

Mayor Walsh announced the creation of the Housing Innovation Lab in the fall of 2015.

"Over the last year we have worked with residents, community organizations, universities and developers to generate and test creative solutions to the city's housing needs," said Marcy Ostberg, Director of the Housing Innovation Lab. "We recognize that we have only scratched the surface and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to continue this important work."

During its first year, the team engaged with housing experts and Boston residents to gather and generate potential ideas to address the problem of high cost housing in Boston. They have taken on initiatives related to density, compact living, alternative housing models and homebuying. Some initiatives include experiential engagements such as the Urban Housing Unit, an idea generating design and build competition, and piloting new zoning tools like the density bonus. The permanence of the lab will allow the team to take what was learned from these pilot initiatives to scale and tackle other drivers of housing costs that have yet to be addressed.

As outlined in the Mayor Walsh's Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030 plan, demographic projections show Boston's workforce growing by 26,600 households between 2010 and 2030-a nearly 13 percent increase over all. To meet this growing demand, the Department of Neighborhood Development and the Housing Innovation Lab will work more closely to examine how to best and most efficiently create the needed 20,000 workforce housing units by 2030.

The Lab was initially funded through an Innovation Team grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. There are nearly 20 "i-teams" across the world using Innovation Delivery practice to work with their mayors to tackle the city's most pressing challenges. The Bloomberg Philanthropies i-team will build upon lessons learned from the Housing Innovation Lab and pivot to Third Spaces, places located between "home" (our first space) and "work" (our second space) that contribute to Boston's collective well-being. Third Spaces include everything from parks to barbershops to places of faith, and are the places where we as Bostonians welcome, connect, and create with others.

To learn more about the Mayor's Housing Innovation Lab visit their website and follow them on Twitter.

About the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics

The Housing Innovation Lab began as a collaboration between the Department of Neighborhood Development and the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics. The Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics serves as Mayor Walsh's civic innovation group. Formed in 2010, New Urban Mechanics pilots experiments that offer the potential to significantly improve the quality of City services. To learn more about its work, follow the office on Twitter or visit their department page.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Teams 

The City of Boston is one of 20 cities around the world participating in Bloomberg Philanthropies' Innovation Teams program. The program aims to improve the capacity of city halls to effectively design and implement new approaches that improve citizens' lives. Innovation teams function as in-house innovation consultants, moving from one mayoral priority to the next. Using Bloomberg Philanthropies' tested Innovation Delivery practice, i-teams help agency leaders and staff through a data-driven process to assess problems, generate responsive new interventions, develop partnerships, and deliver measurable results. For more information on Innovation Teams, please visit their website.