Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on Tuesday announced a series of actions to boost the creation of more affordable housing in the city, including a new real estate transfer tax on sales above $ 2 million that she will bring to the city council next month.
Wu’s demand for a new transfer tax, known as the Self-Rule Petition, would require approval from the city council, state legislature, and governor to go into effect. The transfer fee proposal has been floating around in the city council for several years. Supporters say it would put additional funds in city coffers to be used for various housing efforts.
“The self-reliance petition will also include property tax relief for the elderly who are long-time homeowners in our neighborhoods,” Wu said from town hall.
Further appraisals of city-owned properties, stabilization of rents in the city and housing policies are forthcoming or are already underway, the mayor said on Tuesday. Boston’s Inclusive Development Policy, or IDP, will be studied by the city to see how it can be extended and changed, an announcement that has sparked backlash from local real estate leaders.
The city, Wu said, recently launched an audit of city-owned properties and will soon form a rent stabilization advisory group, a first step towards its campaign promises to both identify locations where more housing can be built and trying to stabilize rents. in Boston.
In addition, Wu said, the city will conduct a separate study on Boston’s bond policy, another measure that leverages the development market for housing finance.
“Together, these actions will help us urgently move towards creating a more affordable city where our working families can stay in their neighborhoods,” Wu said.
The IDP is intended to create units for moderate to middle income city residents who earn too much to qualify for many restricted units at lower income points and not enough to comfortably afford the market rate.
Currently, it applies – with some exemptions – to market-rate residential projects that have 10 or more units and are either city-funded or located on city-owned properties. or the Boston Planning and Redevelopment Agency.
The policy requires that they either designate part of their development units as low income (typically 13%); create low-income housing near their building; or pay a fee in a fund depending on where their developments are located.
In 2019, the IDP led to the creation of approximately 4,000 units since its inception in 2000, according to the Boston Planning and Development Agency.
Wu said the IDP study will explore how Boston can change policy to require a 20% or more reduction in units developers. She added that another potential adjustment, lowering the 10-unit threshold that triggers the policy, could come by executive order in the New Year.
“You can watch any [Zoning Board] program and there are so many nine unit proposals because the developers realize that there is a hard limit there, ”Wu said.“ So as we look at the infill development in our neighborhoods and the possibility of really linking resources… with the growth and development of our communities, this is an option that we are examining very closely. “
Wu was surrounded by supporters such as Councilors Lydia Edwards and Kenzie Bok as well as local nonprofit housing leaders. at Tuesday’s press conference. But others, like Douglass Quattrochi, executive director of Mass Landlords, said Wu should focus on measures that don’t require new laws.
“I really think the mayor would do a lot more good for a lot more people looking to change things that are entirely under his control,” Quattrochi said, suggesting things like universal multi-family zoning to allow for more density.
Mass Landlords oppose rent stabilization and Quattrochi doubted he would make any progress even if he got a seat on Wu’s new advisory board.
“If these are a whole bunch of people who think rental housing should be state owned and there should be no private landlords, we will have no common ground,” he said. he declared. “I just can’t imagine the people Mayor Wu is going to have for this rent. [stabilization] committee would be impartial. “
Other development groups in the greater Boston area have praised Wu on his goals.
“We commend Mayor Wu for his commitment to making housing more affordable and available in Boston, a common goal of the Greater Boston real estate community,” Gregory Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, said in a statement. The group markets itself. as the oldest professional real estate association in America.
Vasil added that Wu should bring together a wide range of stakeholders in the committee “to ensure the best and most feasible solutions on the table.”
“We also believe the mayor and his study groups should aggressively explore any ideas that achieve our common goal, including removing barriers to new construction, directly empowering first-time homebuyers and more.” , continues Vasil’s statement. “Such policies will particularly benefit those who often face unfair barriers to owning and owning their own homes, such as blacks and browns, low-income people and immigrants.”
Beyond the IDP, Boston’s bonding policy will also be revisited to find ways to extract money from new developments – “including lab space,” Wu said.
The Binding Policy, enacted in 1986, requires developers seeking zoning exceptions for proposals larger than 100,000 square feet to contribute to a fund for housing creation and skills training.
According to Wu’s administration, the IDP fund has a balance of $ 32.3 million and the Neighborhood Housing Trust, funded through the Liaison Policy, has a balance of $ 16.2 million. All the money from the two funds was allocated to a housing project.
In the announcement on Tuesday, Wu also responded to public reluctance over his decision to expand COVID-19 vaccination mandates in the city. At a press conference announcing the new rules, a small group of protesters disturbed the mayor and other elected officials with chants and songs.
“Some of the hardest decisions we make are the most important to make,” she said. “We see a lot of emotion around many issues, but often the emotion is also linked to a feeling of confusion or unpredictability,” she added, promising that the city would endeavor to coordinate and develop. ” inform residents.