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Councilor Bok Gives Maiden Speech on Expanding Housing Cooperatives

Councilor Kenzie Bok, representing District 8, gave her first speech at this week’s City Council meeting regarding a hearing to explore the current state of housing cooperatives and strategies for its further expansion.

The City of Boston has increasingly seen transient residents who can no longer afford to remain in their neighborhoods and find themselves pushed farther out of the city. Councilor Bok’s proposal aims to address this issue in the form of housing cooperatives which she believes can serve as an anchor for residents from “all walks of life.”

“We have a tension in this country between housing as a form of shelter and community, and housing as a form of capital holding as a commodity,” she said. “And the equity building aspect of housing, that second piece, we have to acknowledge has always been key to our middle-class. It’s been home ownership.”

Her concern is Boston’s market favoring the capital aspect of housing more frequently, missing the mark when it comes to actually housing people in those buildings. Limited-equity cooperatives, in Councilor Bok’s opinion, can relieve that tension by enabling people to buy into a home ownership structure at affordable prices.

An Act to guarantee a tenant’s right of first refusal, which has been introduced into state legislature but has yet to be passed, would serve as an important mechanism for enabling tenants of large multifamily buildings to transform those buildings into housing cooperatives upon the sale by the current owner.

Councilor Bok discussed the success of Boston’s current large-scale cooperatives at engaging civic life, and called on city officials to explore ways in which the creation of more housing cooperatives can be supported.