Meeting looks at expanding requirements
City Councilors and other city officials are considering updates to Boston’s Inclusionary Development Policy in order to make affordable housing more accessible throughout the city and avoid displacement of low-income residents.
At a hearing in City Hall Monday evening, residents and housing advocates spoke to councilors about the importance of the policy, which requires developers to build affordable units or donate to the IDP fund. The policy applies to developments that have 10 or more units, are on city-owned land or require zoning relief.
“We need to change the rules, otherwise there will be a lot of families in the streets, and the houses that are getting built for the future won’t have families who need housing the most,” said Julio Nuñez, an Egleston Square resident and member of Keep it 100 for Real Affordable Housing and Racial Justice, who testified at the hearing. “Everyone should have a home because everyone is equal, including families in Boston who make $50,000 and families at the poverty line.”
Currently, projects that fall under the IDP requirements, which were first established in 2000, must either designate 13 percent of residential units in the development as income-restricted, create off-site affordable units in the same area or contribute to the IDP fund, which goes to preserving affordable housing throughout the city. In 2015, Mayor Martin Walsh updated the policy by executive order and established that it should be reviewed every three years.
The Boston Planning and Development Agency recently reported that it had identified 16 projects in the city that were in violation of the IDP, a figure that has since risen to 19.
Councilor Ed Flynn, who convened the hearing along with Councilors Lydia Edwards and Michael Flaherty, said that in his district, which includes Chinatown, displacement of low-income families has been rampant, due to investors and developers coming in to buy up the historic row houses in the area. He gave examples of one investor who evicted families from a building to rebuild it with more units, while instead it sat empty for two years, and another developer that preferred to pay a $600,000 IDP fine instead of building affordable units.
“Our city needs affordable housing for our working families to stay in the city,” Flynn said. “We need to make sure our IDP program is effective in providing affordable housing that our communities need, and that it is enforced as well.”
Flynn, like others at the hearing, said that he would like to see the threshold for the number of units that would trigger IDP requirements lowered, and the percentage of required affordable units go up.
Tim Davis, housing policy manager at the BPDA, said that the agency was supportive of lowering the threshold, as well as looking at possible square footage requirements instead of the number of units in a development.
Jason Desrosier, manager of community building and engagement at Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, who spoke on a panel at the hearing, said that in order to ensure that residents are able to afford housing in his neighborhood and others, developers need to work within the IDP guidelines and contribute to the generation of affordable housing.
“Housing development is not unwelcomed in our city, but developers must come to the table ready to work with residents,” Desrosier said. “This is not happening.”
Davis and Chief of Housing Sheila Dillon said that they hope to have the update to IDP ready by fall of this year.