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Mayor Walsh launches Housing Innovation Lab

A Bloomberg-funded team will explore and evaluate solutions for building, buying, and owning middle-income housing.

BOSTON - Monday, October 19, 2015 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently announced the creation of the Mayor's Housing Innovation Lab, co-led by Susan Nguyen and Marcy Ostberg, to bring design thinking and innovation into solving Boston's middle income housing challenge.

"Maintaining a strong middle class is critical to ensuring that Boston continues to be a thriving, diverse city where people want to live and employers want to locate," said Mayor Walsh. "Having Susan and Marcy in place to lead the i-team will help ensure that Boston remains a city that is affordable to people at all economic levels. No city in the United States has solved the middle income housing challenge yet; I want Boston to be the first." 

The initial work of the Lab will be funded by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. In December 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced grants to 12 US cities to set up "i-teams" in their City to bring innovative thinking to challenging issues.

For the next 18 months, Boston's i-team, a part of the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM), will lead the Mayor's Housing Innovation Lab in collaboration with the City's Department of Neighborhood Development (DND).

The development of the Housing Innovation Lab will require the i-team to explore ideas that will potentially drive down the cost to build, buy, and own homes in the City of Boston. The team will be actively seeking input from internal and external housing experts as well as from Boston residents to gather and generate potential ideas to solve this issue. Ideas that are both high-impact and highly feasible will be deployed as prototypes on an experimental basis throughout the City. Successful prototypes that indicate improvements in housing affordability will be brought to scale and will help inform the City's continued focus on middle income housing creation. The Lab will continue to gather ideas throughout the entire 18-month innovation program.

As outlined in the Walsh administration'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 the next 20 years. However, in today's housing market, it can be extremely challenging to construct moderately-priced housing. To meet this growing demand, the Mayor's Housing Innovation Lab will examine how to best and most efficiently create the 20,000 workforce housing units called for in the plan by 2030.

For more information, visit the Housing Innovation Lab website.

Biographies of Housing Innovation Lab Members

Susan Nguyen, Program Co-Manager - Susan is the Program Co-Manager for the i-team. She develops new methods of innovation to deliver quality products and services to residents and visitors. Susan previously worked as a Program Director for the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics. Her background is in city planning, economics, design, and public engagement. Prior to joining the City of Boston, Susan holds a MA in Urban Planning from Harvard's Graduate School of Design and BA from Harvard College.

Marcy Ostberg, Program Co-Manager - Marcy is thrilled to join Boston's i-team as a Program Co-Manager, bringing her background in civic innovation, urban policy and education. She previously worked as a Strategic Project Manager at the Right Question Institute advancing a question formulation strategy used for problem solving in innovation, critical thinking in education and self-advocacy in social services. Previously she worked as a High School Biology Teacher at the Boston Day & Evening Academy. Her experiences as an urban educator drove her to explore innovative solutions to systemic and complex problems that face low-income families. Marcy holds a MA in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University, an MEd in Secondary Biology from Franklin Pierce University, and a BS in Kinesiology from Gordon College.

Sabrina Dorsainvil, Civic Designer - Sabrina Dorsainvil is a Boston-based designer and illustrator whose work ranges from playful drawings to the development of strategic, human centered design solutions used to address complex issues such as housing, healthcare and human rights. She is fascinated by people; the way they move, speak, touch, interact and experience environments, objects and each other. She has worked with community based organizations, large corporate institutions, and international projects on issues regarding social, spatial and environmental justice. Her role as i-team civic designer will employ human centered design to assist in addressing the mayoral challenge of keeping Boston affordable to middle income families. Sabrina holds a BFA in Industrial Design for Massachusetts College of Art and Design and an MS in Design and Urban Ecologies from Parsons the New School.

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