Featured Government Real Estate

Councilor Edwards Calls for Updates to Two Affordable Housing Programs

From the Office of Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, representing District One (North End, Charlestown and East Boston):

Councilors Lydia Edwards, Chair of Boston’s Housing and Community Development Committee has released a policy brief calling for updates on two key housing programs.

The first focuses on Inclusionary Development, which requires certain developers to produce deed-restricted units (for rental units, at up to 70% of the Area Median Income) or pay towards a fund that accomplishes the same purpose. The second is the Linkage Program (also known as Development Impact Fees), which generates funds for the Neighborhood Housing and Neighborhood Jobs Trust.

In the report, Councilor Edwards points out that Boston is behind Cambridge and Somerville in these program requirements. Inclusionary development in Boston is currently set at 13%, with up to 18% applying in certain areas, while Cambridge and Somerville have adopted 20% inclusionary requirements. The chart below details this comparison.

Linkage, which in Boston applies to buildings over 100,000 square feet, is currently $10.81 / square foot with $9.03 allocated for housing. A linkage Nexus study commissioned by the Walsh administration in 2016 recommended increasing the housing portion to $16.08 – $21.39, depending on exemptions, for a total of $18.07 to $24.04. Councilor Edwards filed legislation in January to implement these recommendations. Boston’s development impact fees are compared to neighboring communities in the chart below.

See updates called for in the report below and read the full document here.

  • Model 20% and 25% affordability standards for inclusionary development in Boston. 
  • Adopt new rental affordability measures to increase the affordability of deed-restricted properties, which may still be out of reach for many Bostonians.
  • Eliminate loopholes that allow developers to avoid affordable housing contribution “triggers,” such as building numerous 8-unit or 9-unit buildings when 10-unit buildings are subject to inclusionary requirements.
  • Evaluate decisionmaking on inclusionary development, which in most cities is done by the Mayor and City Council as opposed to by a quasi-public entity.
  • Improve data reporting to track beneficiaries of the inclusionary development program to facilitate city’s efforts toward advancing racial equity.
  • Clarify inclusionary development requirements for Planned Development Areas like Suffolk Downs. 
  • Promote long-term affordability by dedicating a portion of inclusionary development funds to community-owned housing, such as community land trusts.
  • Adjust Boston’s zoning code to automatically update linkage and avert missed opportunities.
  • Update state law to codify inclusionary development and modernize linkage.