Investments announced to address housing needs through new dedicated revenue as part of recommended FY20 operational budget
Building on his commitment to expanding access to affordable housing opportunities and combating chronic homelessness in Boston, Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced $20.6 million in City funds to support housing efforts as part of the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) operating budget proposal. The City investments to sustain and expand its housing goals represent an increase of approximately $6.4 million, or 45 percent, in the FY20 operating budget for housing over last year. Five million dollars of this investment will be generated as part of implementing the Commonwealth’s new Room Occupancy Excise Law and in accordance with the City’s local ordinances. The Department of Neighborhood Development’s total budget also includes $64.9 million from external grants and $20.1 million in anticipated spending from the Inclusionary Development Program.
"Housing affordability remains one of our top priorities in Boston, and I am proud that through our proposed budget we are doubling down on our efforts to create and preserve more affordable housing for residents," said Mayor Walsh. “Over the last four years, Boston has built more income-restricted housing than in any similar period on record. Through the new tools and funding in our budget, we will be able to further build upon the progress we have made, and expand our reach to offer more housing options to residents."
As Boston continues to look for ways to address its housing needs, the City has identified an opportunity to increase its limited revenue and permanently target the funds to enhance housing and homelessness efforts. As part of implementing the Commonwealth’s new Room Occupancy Excise Law, $5 million will be generated through increasing Boston’s Room Occupancy Local Excise Tax by 0.5 percentage points to 6.5 percent for all lodging establishments. In the first year, $4 million will be targeted towards creating 50 new units of permanent supportive housing and $1 million to create pathways for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness.
“This budget reflects the Walsh Administration’s continued commitment to identifying additional resources for affordable housing,” said Sheila Dillon, Boston’s Chief of Housing. “It also shows our willingness to explore and fund new ideas to increase the supply of affordable housing and programs that protect the most vulnerable members of our community.”
These new investments are in addition to the many other housing investments contained in the Mayor’s FY20 operating budget that target the full spectrum of housing needs in Boston. Departments across the entire City will implement new FY20 investments that will help address homelessness, create and preserve affordable housing, and support homeowners and renters.
The following investments target the three priorities outlined in the City’s housing plan Housing a Changing City: production of new housing, preservation of existing affordable housing, and protection of those households most at risk. To accomplish these goals, Mayor Walsh has committed to help create 69,000 new units of housing at a variety of income levels across the City, including nearly 16,000 new units of income-restricted housing that will bring Boston’s total number of income-restricted units to 70,000 by 2030.
Ending Chronic and Youth Homelessness
Mayor Walsh’s FY20 recommended budget includes $4 million to support the creation of approximately 50 new units of permanent supportive housing each year. Permanent supportive housing combines subsidized rental housing with individualized support services so that people can receive the assistance they need to stay housed. Creating new permanent supportive housing is a critical component of Boston's Way Home, the City's plan to end chronic homelessness. The services are designed to build independent living skills and to connect people with services such as community-based health care, help with mental health issues, substance use counseling, and employment services.
By definition, chronically homeless individuals have barriers that create challenges to remaining housed. These barriers can include physical disabilities, substance use disorder, and mental health issues, among others. Without additional assistance, some chronically homeless men and women are not able to maintain their homes. Since the launch of Boston's Way Home, the City has:
- Housed 721 chronically homeless individuals, representing more than 4,000 years of homelessness ended.
- Reduced chronic homelessness in Boston by 22 percent from 2016 to 2018, and by 48 percent from 2008 to 2018
- Housed 915 homeless veterans and ended chronic homelessness among veterans
- Reduced the number of homeless veterans in Boston on a single night by 37 percent since 2015 and by 48 percent over the past 4 years
- Partnered with six affordable housing owners in Boston to create a homeless veteran preference within their housing
- Received $5 million in donations to build 200 new units of supportive, long-term housing for chronically homeless men in women through Boston's Way Home Fund
“Pine Street Inn is extremely pleased to partner with Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston on its commitment to end chronic homelessness,” said Lyndia Downie, president and executive director of Pine Street Inn. ”We know that having a home – a safe, stable place to go every day – can make all the difference in a person’s life. We are very fortunate to have the kind of leadership in Boston that puts its resources behind solving a challenge that affects not just those who are homeless, but all of us who live or work in Boston. Providing housing with support services is not just the “right” thing to do – it is also cost-effective, saving over $10,000 per person/per year on emergency systems.”
The FY20 recommended budget also includes $1 million to provide connections to employment, rental assistance, and supportive services for youth, building on the City’s action plan to support young Bostonians experiencing homelessness. These funds will help support early identification and outreach, increase access to effective supports, and to develop a collaborative system to create pathways to opportunity for those experiencing homelessness. This investment is on top of a $4.9 million Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In addition, the FY20 budget includes a $300,000 investment that will fund four formerly homeless individuals to work as peer navigators across shelters in Boston connecting individuals currently experiencing chronic homelessness with permanent housing pathways. Peer housing navigators will help clients with their housing applications, gathering documentation needed for housing, and mentoring others as they transition from homelessness to housing.
The budget also includes a $100,000 expansion in outreach services to provide assessment, crisis intervention, and intensive case management services to unsheltered individuals drawn to the spaces and resources of the Boston Public Library (BPL).
Launched in 2017, the current program, in which a full-time outreach worker is embedded at the BPL’s Central Library in Copley Square, comprises, on average, approximately 126 unique client interactions per month. These interactions, which include placements in housing and treatment programs, are expected to double with the additional capacity provided in the FY20 budget. The proposed new capacity will add social work interns to the program, enabling additional interactions at branch locations, which could include the South End, West End, Uphams Corner, and Dudley. Services will also be dispatched to additional locations as needed.
Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing
Building and preserving affordable housing continues to be a cornerstone of the Administration’s efforts to address the City’s housing needs. To that end, the recommended FY20 budget includes funding for the expansion of the Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs) program. This $650,000 investment will provide zero-interest loans for income-eligible homeowners. The program allows owner-occupants to carve out space within their homes to create smaller, independent units in East Boston, Mattapan and Jamaica Plain, developing more naturally occurring affordable housing options while creating rental income for homeowners. Since the pilot launched in 2017, 12 ADU permits have been issued, and the City is planning to expand the program to all neighborhoods this spring. No-interest loans of up to $30,000 for income-eligible homeowners will help more owners across Boston create ADUs.
Earlier this year, Mayor Walsh and the City's Community Preservation Committee (CPC) allocated more than $18 million from Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to create and preserve hundreds of units of housing, and to contribute to affordable housing programming like the Acquisition Opportunity Program (AOP) and the Boston Home Center. The AOP provides funding to community development corporations and others to purchase rental housing units from the speculative market and income-restrict them.
In an effort to preserve Boston’s housing stock while providing economic opportunities for residents and temporary accommodations for visitors, Mayor Walsh signed an ordinance in 2018 establishing guidelines and regulations to better track and regulate short-term rentals in the City of Boston. The regulations, which went into effect on January 1, 2019, allow for the growth of the home-sharing industry, while including deterrents to prevent operators from monopolizing Boston's housing market with short-term rentals.
In his FY20 budget proposal, Mayor Walsh is investing more than $105,000 in the Boston’s Inspectional Services Department for two additional staff members to regulate short-term rentals. These inspectors will assist with the enforcement of the regulations, working to ensure that the owners are abiding by the regulations that classify short-term rental units: limited share unit, home share unit, and owner-adjacent unit.
The regulations provide protection for the occupants of the short-term rental unit by prohibiting any property with outstanding housing, sanitary, building, fire or zoning-code violations from being listed. The regulations require the unit to register with the City of Boston each year to verify compliance with the provisions of the ordinance, and pay an annual license fee.
Supporting Homeowners and Renters
The FY20 budget includes $100,000 to expand the Intergenerational Homeshare Program. Launched as a pilot in 2017 as a collaboration between the Age Strong Commission and the Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab, the program leverages technology to match older adults with an extra room with a responsible young person looking for affordable rent. Some agreements even include exchanging basic help with daily living for lower rent. Funding will allow the program to pair 100 matches in FY20 by hiring a vendor to recruit and assist hosts, vet applicants, and provide ongoing support for participants.
In addition, the FY20 budget will provide $25,000 to fund a housing court navigator. While there are nonprofit resources available at Housing Court, they are often hard to find and navigate. This effort will fund staff to greet and direct families and individuals facing eviction to appropriate onsite services.
The City's FY20 budget will be formally released on Wednesday, April 10, 2019, and residents are encouraged to visit budget.boston.gov to find out more information about investments being made in their community.