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New housing policies to support residents with disabilities

The new accessibility policies will increase access to housing opportunities for people with disabilities in Boston.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, joined by members of the Mayor's Disability Housing Task Force, today announced  new accessibility policies that will increase access to housing opportunities for people with disabilities in Boston.  The Task Force spent 18 months outlining challenges and identifying ways to improve housing access, and these new policies are the direct result of that work.  

The Task Force's work marks a key deliverable of Mayor Walsh's housing plan, which is committed to "acquire a better understanding of the needs of the disability community, and to establish both production targets and procedures to make it easier for people with disabilities to occupy accessible housing."

"When we talk about making our city a fair and equitable place to live, we need to make sure that we are inclusive of all Bostonians, including those with disabilities.," said Mayor Walsh.  "I commend the members of this Task Force for their energy, passion, and willingness to have frank conversations with us about how we could do better.  These new policies will go a long way in making Boston more accessible to all."

According to the most recent data from the American Community Survey, approximately 75,000 people - nearly 12 percent of Boston's population - have a disability of one type or another.  Accessible housing is one of the most important needs of people with disabilities, especially Boston's 22,000 non-elderly persons with ambulatory disabilities, 9,800 non-elderly persons with visual disabilities, and 7,400 people with auditory disabilities.  

"The housing crisis is very real for people with disabilities in Boston-- every day we work with people seeking those scarce units that are affordable and accessible," said Bill Henning, Director of the Boston Center for Independent Living. "We commend Mayor Walsh for supporting these initiatives as part of a needed, methodical effort to create more housing options for all in Boston."

To ensure greater equity and access to housing for people with disabilities, the Task Force outlined three key goals:

  1. Increase the supply of accessible housing for persons with disabilities
  2. Improve outreach and marketing for available accessible housing units and resources
  3. Increase support services to ensure stable housing for persons with disabilities

Achieving these goals will require significant collaboration across City agencies, including the Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Neighborhood Development, the Boston Planning & Development Agency, the City's Inspectional Services Department, the Department of Innovation and Technology, the Office of Housing Stability, and the Boston Home Center.

The new accessibility housing policies will be implemented in phases, starting immediately and continuing through the next year. The key initiatives of these policies are outlined below:

  • Affordable Supply: A new set aside policy will increase the number of affordable units designed and marketed to disabled households from five to ten percent in new City-funded elevator buildings. 

In addition, the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) will increase the number of accessible income-restricted units produced via the the Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP), requiring that in buildings already creating accessible units, 15 percent of the income-restricted units also be accessible.

  • Funding: Both the BPDA and DND will assess income and asset requirements for prospective renters and homeowners to ensure that persons with disabilities are not deterred from purchasing or renting accessible, affordable homes due to criteria that can be reasonably adjusted.

The City will also create a loan fund to assist families developing Accessory Dwelling Units for use by a disabled family member in one of the three pilot neighborhoods planned for expedited zoning and permitting of these units.

The Boston Home Center will assess the feasibility of a loan program that provides gap funding for qualified owner-occupants of 1- to 4-family residential properties who do not qualify for the state's already extant HOME Modification Loan Program. This potential new loan product would aid homeowners in making accessibility improvements to their homes for themselves or their  tenants.

  • Navigation: The City will distribute widely a newly-created, detailed resource guide that highlights important housing programs and services available in and around Boston.  Also, the City will begin work to create an online Accessible Housing Portal that captures all housing opportunities for persons with disabilities in one place.
  • Incentives: The City will assist nonprofit developer partners in applying for Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities loans from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  These loans offer rental subsidies to nonprofit developers of affordable rental housing with supportive services, which will help to defray the cost of constructing new accessible housing.
  • Stability: The Office of Housing Stability will expand its case management offerings for people with disabilities who are at high risk of homelessness by matching them with caseworkers who can assist them in finding suitable housing, and will more intentionally link people with disabilities to the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development for information on financial empowerment, economic stability, and tax preparation.
  • Future Development: The Commission for Persons with Disabilities will continue to monitor accessibility in all new construction projects in Boston in collaboration with the BDPA through an updated and expandedArticle 80 Accessibility Checklist. This checklist was implemented two years ago as a requirement of the development approval process, and requires developers to provide detailed information about accessibility throughout each stage of their project.  

Members of the Task Force include:

  • Kristen McCosh, Commissioner, Commission for Persons with Disabilities

  • Sheila Dillon, Chief of Housing and Director, Department of Neighborhood Development

  • Bill Henning, Executive Director, Boston Center for Independent Living

  • Sally English, Director of Services, Boston Center for Independent Living

  • Charleen Regan, Housing and Community Development Consultant

  • Valerie Fletcher, Executive Director, Institute for Human Centered Design

  • Remoun Jourdan, IL Outreach Advocate, Multi-Cultural Independent Living Center of Boston

  • Barbara Chandler, Senior Advisor on Civil Rights and Fair Housing, MBHP          

  • Don Bianchi, Senior Policy Advocate, Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations,

  • Rachel Heller, Director of Public Policy, Citizen's Housing and Planning Association

  • Charles Hollins, Director of Advocacy, Bay Cove

  • Patricia Cooper, Vice President Housing Development, Vinfen

  • Kevin Martone, Executive Director, Technical Assistance Collaborative

  • John Winske, Executive Director, Disability Policy Consortium

  • Kristin Craig, Case Worker, Spaulding Rehab Hospital

  • Alexis Buckley, Affirmative Marketing Specialist, Office of Fair Housing and Equity

  • Gabrielle Vacheresse, Home Start Inc

  • Rob Consalvo, Deputy Director, Boston Public Schools

  • Prataap Patrose, Deputy Director for Urban Design, Boston Planning & Development Agency

  • Marc Mallard, Member, National Alliance on Mental Illness

  • Donna Grady, Member, Boston Center for Independent Living

  • Olivia Richard, Member, Boston Center for Independent Living

  • Janice Ward, Advocate, Mass ADAPT

  • Sue White, Director of Affordable Housing, Vinfen

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