March 2023: Latest Updates from the Mayor's Office of Housing
At the end of January, Mayor Michelle Wu led a group of volunteers, including U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials, City and State officials, homelessness services providers, and public health and first responders, in conducting the City of Boston’s 43rd annual homelessness census.
The street count is part of the City's comprehensive yearly census of unsheltered adults, youth, and families in emergency shelters, transitional housing, domestic violence programs, as well as individuals living outside. The census helps inform the City of Boston’s policy development and allocation of resources for households experiencing homelessness.
This year, more than 200 volunteers canvassed 45 areas after midnight, covering every city neighborhood, Logan Airport, and the transit and parks systems. Volunteers covered assigned areas, identified those sleeping on the street, conducted a short survey, and provided individuals with important safety information and items to help keep warm.
The surveys will be closely analyzed to ensure accuracy, and then cross-checked and combined with the results of a shelter count. The annual homelessness census required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a key component in Boston receiving more than $38 million in federal grant funding for housing and services for households experiencing homelessness in Boston.
The results from this year’s homeless census will be available in the coming months.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING FUNDING AWARDS
In February, Mayor Wu joined the Hyde Square Task Force, affordable housing developers, and community organizations at the site of the former Blessed Sacrament church to announce $67 million in new funding from the Mayor’s Office of Housing, the Community Preservation Fund, and the Neighborhood Housing Trust (NHT) to create and preserve more than 800 income-restricted units of housing in eight Boston neighborhoods.
The Blessed Sacrament site is one of the projects receiving funding. The ambitious portfolio consists of 17 projects with a total of 802 units of mixed-income housing that includes rental housing for families, while also creating new homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income Bostonians. Of the 802 units, 160 will be income-restricted housing for seniors. These proposed projects meet the Mayor’s Office of Housing standards for zero-emissions buildings and represent transit-oriented, green development.
CITY COUNCIL PASSES RENT STABILIZATION PROPOSAL
Building upon her commitment to protect Boston renters, Mayor Wu submitted a home rule petition proposal to the City Council to limit rent increases on certain properties.
In February, the Boston City Council overwhelmingly approved the proposal, clearing the first hurdle before it can be enacted by the city. The council voted 11-2 in support of the plan, which would tie rent increases to inflation by tracking the consumer price index and allowing for an additional 6% on top of that index. There will be a maximum increase of 10% allowed for apartments in Boston. The plan exempts smaller landlords and units in buildings less than 15 years old.
The proposal now goes to the State House where it must be approved by the Massachusetts Legislature and the Governor before the City can enact a rent stabilization ordinance.
MAYOR NAMES MEMBERS FOR EXECUTIVE ORDER TO SPEED AFFORDABLE HOUSING COMMITTEE
At the end of 2022, Mayor Wu signed an executive order designed to speed up the production of affordable housing. The executive order is a response to the challenges facing Boston’s housing market in order to remove barriers and make the process for developing affordable housing easier across the city. The current process to approve affordable housing can take as long as 337 days. The executive order aims to reduce that time in half.
The executive order consists of five components designed to increase the speed by which affordable housing projects are approved for development:
- Create a more efficient path for Article 80 development review and approval
- Study and address zoning challenges to affordable housing development
- Prioritize affordable housing in the development review processes
- Create a system to track affordable housing reviews and approvals
- Establish a governance structure to ensure effective implementation
In order to accomplish these goals, an advisory committee has been formed. Below are the individuals who have been selected for the committee.
- Jessica Boatright, Deputy Director of Neighborhood Housing Division, Mayor’s Office of Housing
- Phillip Cohen, Principal, Boston Communities
- Sheila Dillon, Chief of Housing
- Joseph D. Feaster, Jr., Counsel, Dain Torpy
- Diana Fernandez, Deputy Chief of Urban Design, Boston Planning and Development Agency
- Mike Firestone, Chief of Policy & Strategic Planning, Mayor’s Office
- Colleen Fonseca, Executive Director, Builders of Color Coalition
- Jonathan Garland, President & Founder, J. Garland Enterprises
- Aaron Gornstein, President and CEO, Preservation of Affordable Housing
- Arthur Jemison, Chief of Planning
- Jesse Kanson-Benanav, Executive Director, Abundant Housing
- Reuben Kantor, Senior Advisory for Strategy and Operations, Boston Planning and Development Agency
- Daniel Lander, Senior Advisor to the Mayor
- Matthew Lawlor, Partner, Robinson & Cole
- Daniel Lesser, Director of Operations, Mayor’s Office of Housing
- Angie Liou, Executive Director, Asian Community Development Corporation
- Matthew Littell, Principal, Utile
- Sean Lydon, Commissioner of Inspectional Services Department
- Kimberly Lyle, CEO, Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation
- René Mardones, Director of Community Organizing, Dudley Square Neighborhood Initiative
- Devin Quirk, Deputy Chief for Development & Transformation, Boston Planning and Development Agency
- Leslie Reid, CEO, Madison Park Development Corporation
- Cindy Schlessinger, Principal, Epsilon Associates
- Josh Zakim, Executive Director, Housing Forward MA
- Sebastian Zapata, Senior Origination Analyst, MassHousing
ARTICLE 80 REVIEW PANEL ANNOUNCED
In February, Mayor Michelle Wu announced the members of a steering committee to advise on reforms to the Article 80 process of the Boston Zoning Code. The creation of the committee is one piece of a comprehensive set of reforms being led by the BPDA to improve the planning and development process so Boston can meet its housing and economic growth needs.
Article 80 refers to a section of the Boston Zoning Code adopted in 1996 to establish a more extensive review process for development proposals of more than 20,000 square feet or more than 15 dwelling units. Mayor Wu is undertaking the first comprehensive review of the process after nearly three decades to ensure greater predictability and consistency.
The panel members are:
- Joseph Bonfiglio, Business Manager of the Massachusetts and Northern New England District Council since 2009.
- Anthony D'Isidoro, President of the Allston Civic Association.
- Fernando J. Domenech, Jr., President of DHK Architects, where he has worked on community-based urban housing.
- Colleen Fonseca, Executive Director of the Builders of Color Coalition, where she is responsible for leading the development and expansion of programming to increase access and diversity in Boston's commercial real estate sector.
- Beyazmin Jimenez, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Culture for the Planning and Real Estate Department at Northeastern University.
- Matthew Kiefer, land use attorney at Goulston & Storrs.
- Steve Samuels, Founder and Chairman of Samuels & Associates, a Boston commercial real estate developer, property manager, and leasing company.
- Kairos Shen, Executive Director of the Center for Real Estate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Kirk Sykes, Managing Director of Accordia Partners, LLC, a Boston based real estate investment and development company.
OFFICE OF HOUSING STABILITY VIRTUAL LEGAL CLINICS
Every Wednesday at 5:30pm, the Office of Housing Stability (OHS) hosts a virtual clinic for small landlords and tenants.
At this clinic, you can speak with attorneys, a landlord mediator, and OHS staff. This staff can assist you with applying for the Rental Relief Fund.
Prior to the clinic, you will receive a meeting link via email.
Please note: This clinic is only for residents and property owners in the City of Boston.
THE MAYOR'S OFFICE OF HOUSING IS HIRING
Looking for a job where you can see the results of your hard work everyday in your neighborhood?
We need dedicated professionals to help us work on solving the housing issues in the City. Join us and help Boston develop and maintain strong and diverse neighborhoods.