Mayor Marty Walsh expressed his bold vision for Boston in this week’s State of the City with his biggest priorities being housing, transportation, and Boston Public Schools.
Walsh wants $500 million to build thousands of homes across the city of Boston over a five-year period. However, he said he will need help from state lawmakers to achieve this lofty goal. Mayor Walsh urged Beacon Hill to pass the Home Rule Petition that would allow the city to have a transfer tax of 2 percent on real estate transactions above $2 million.
The Mayor also announced that his administration will double the City’s current funding in affordable housing to $100 million in their part to reach the $500 million.
“I urge the legislature to let us take this step so we can ease housing pressures in neighborhoods like Brighton, Chinatown, and East Boston,” Walsh said.
Another way to get the money is for the city to sell the city-owned Lafayette Garage in the downtown area. Walsh believes this could earn the city more than $120 million.
City Councilor Michelle Wu was very hesitant about this plan. “Exchanging this for a one-time cash windfall needs very specific justification. Looking forward to seeing plans before any Council vote,” she tweeted.
Walsh would need the city council to vote in favor to sell the garage.
The Walsh administration will also be issuing city-funded rental vouchers to low income families.
“Housing is the biggest economic challenge our residents face,” said Mayor Walsh. “We know we have been making progress, but rents and home prices are still too high for too many people. These investments are transformative and I invite housing advocates and residents to help us bring them to life. At a time when our federal government is stepping away from creating and preserving affordable housing, Boston is continuing to step up and make investments in housing because we believe housing is not a commodity, but our community.”
The Mayor stated that Boston’s notorious traffic problems are a threat to people’s livelihoods.
“Every day, I talk to people about their commutes,” he said. “What I hear, and see, are traffic jams, delayed trains, not enough buses. It’s not just a headache — it’s a threat to the future of our economy.”
Walsh wants Commonwealth residents to be able to vote on transportation projects. “It’s time to give people a voice,” he said. “For our economy, our environment, and our quality of life, it’s time for 21st-century transportation.”
Mayor Walsh is urging leaders on Beacon Hill to put more money into the MBTA. “Do more than repair the system of the past,” Walsh said. “Invest in the future of our Commonwealth. Mayors, business leaders, advocates, and commuters will support you; and if you can’t move forward, then let us lead.”
In other news, $100 million will go to fund Boston Public School (BPS) classrooms over the next three years, according to the Mayor.
“This level of planned new investment, over and above cost increases, has never been done before,” he said. “It will reach every school, and it will be carefully targeted, so every dollar makes a difference.”
The $100 million investment over the next three years will focus on student wellness and mental health supports, curriculum enrichment, and programming and activities. 100 percent of the funding will go directly to students or services provided by schools. The investment will be made on top of standard costs increases, such as inflation and employee costs.
“This is a great day for the children of Boston Public Schools,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Brenda Cassellius in a statement. “This historic, new funding will allow us to provide direct support to every single student, starting with those who need it the most. I am incredibly grateful to Mayor Walsh for his continued commitment to our children and families.”
However, some were more critical and skeptical of Walsh’s plans for BPS.
“The administration has failed to address our most pressing structural and systemic inequities in BPS: stalled progress on universal pre-k, crumbling buildings and infrastructure, and high schools that aren’t preparing children for success,” Councilor Andrea Campbell said in a tweet.
“In order to ensure every family has access to a quality BPS school, we need more than announcements and money thrown at the problem. It is hard not to view the Mayor’s BPS announcement at #SOTC with great skepticism,” she added.
Watch District One (North End, East Boston, and Charlestown) City Councilor Lydia Edwards’ response to the State of the City in the video below.