September 21, 2018

By Katie Pyzyk

Dive Brief:

  • Boston has released a request for proposals (RFP) for affordable housing projects to which the city can offer financial support.
  • The support includes more than $16 million from the city’s affordable housing fund as well as its first large-scale distribution of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding for affordable housing projects. The exact amount of CPA funding has yet to be determined, but it’s expected to be around $9 million. This is one of the largest affordable housing funding rounds in the city’s history.
  • Proposals must meet priority criteria that include housing plans for homeless, disabled and aging populations, as well as projects that will bring affordable options to high-cost neighborhoods and developments at risk of losing their affordability in five years.

Dive Insight:

Boston has done a lot of work on the housing front in just the last year alone, building on the Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030 plan that launched shortly after Mayor Marty Walsh took office four years ago. The plan aims to create 53,000 new housing units, about a quarter of which have been completed.

This year Walsh established a $10 million private donor fund to combat chronic homelessness and was named chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Community Development and Housing Committee. Boston collaborated with more than a dozen neighboring cities and towns to create a housing partnership, and it approved an ordinance limiting short-term rentals. The city also began the process for creating a new downtown zoning master plan, with a larger focus on affordable housing.

All of these actions are considered positive, but they are sorely needed in Boston, which is one of the most expensive places in the country to live and is in the midst of one of the country’s worst housing crises. Solving Boston’s housing problem presents some unique challenges considering the city already is densely populated and lacks land area on which to expand.

Plus, as one of the country’s first settlements, the city has a plethora of historic areas and buildings that have limitations on changes or expansions for historic preservation reasons. The newly announced CPA support could help navigate historic and affordability challenges for some housing developments.

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