By Beth Treffeisen
Even though Boston is in a midst of a building boom, rents and sale prices continue to rise in Boston, making it increasingly challenging for residents to find housing that is affordable.
A report released by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), on Tuesday, August 8, shows how the City is working towards addressing the housing needs of middle-income residents through the Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP).
“We have made significant in-roads to affordable housing and have seen stabilization but people don’t feel it,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “People are not really leaving and people are moving in. Millenials want to stay and baby boomers are moving back.”
Developers seeking zoning variances are required to make a commitment to support affordable housing through including at least 13 percent income-restricted units within their building, creating units off-site or by contributing to a citywide affordable housing fund.
Sheila Dillon, the Chief of Housing and Director of Neighborhood Development, said that in recent years there has been a big push from residents to keep the units on-site, especially downtown where a lot of development has been happening.
“The neighborhoods are getting more and more sophisticated and when the affordable units come up they want very much to see them on-site,” said Dillon. “They want to keep a mixed economic community… it is nice to see. It is key these new developments don’t price them out.”
Completed IDP units are concentrated in the areas where new, private housing production is occurring the most – in central Boston neighborhoods stretching from the North End to the South End, and from the Financial District to the Fenway.
Collectively, these neighborhoods contain 26 percent of the city’s existing income restricted housing, and 25 percent of all housing units.
The report cited that there are very few city-owned parcels and land prices are high in these downtown neighborhoods making the opportunities to create below market, income restricted housing in these neighborhoods limited.
Since the inception of the IDP program in 2000, South Boston has seen the biggest jump of IDP units at 403 completed units. The cluster of downtown neighborhoods of Bay Village, Chinatown, Financial District, and the North End followed with 228 completed units.
The South End, which has seen a dramatic amount of construction down near the Harrison/ Albany Ave., corridor, is not far behind with 210 completed IDP units.
One example of how IDP has worked is with the 345 Harrison Avenue project, which is currently under construction in the South End. When completed, the building will have 585 rental units, as well as 40,000 square feet of retail space.
Located within the 2012 Harrison, Albany Corridor Strategic Plan, the project was held to rigorous requirements for inclusionary development of income-restricted housing. As a result, ten percent of the apartments (58) will be IDP units and the project is contributing $11.8 million to the IDP Fund – one of the largest contributions yet.
Through the IDP, developers have created over 1,700 units of stable housing for moderate and middle-income families and have contributed over $96 million to the IDP fund.
Of the projects that have been completed since the creation of IDP, 89 percent have units on-site, three percent have created units off-site and 26 percent agreed to make a contribution to the IDP fund.
The City of Boston has been able to increase affordable/ income restricted housing production from an average of 290 units per year before the introduction of IDP to an average of 605 per year over the last three years.
A substantial number of new IDP units are anticipated to be completed over the next few years: 746 units are under construction or have been permitted, and there are 656 units that are in project that have been approved by the BPDA.
About 19 percent of Boston’s housing stock is income restricted. The IDP is an important tool and one of the only resources for addressing moderate-income households being priced out of Boston’s real estate.
“We are keeping in track – we want to make sure that the affluent folks don’t price them out and that there is new stock to do so,” said Brian Golden the director of the BPDA. “I believe that it’s critical that this building boom reaches every one of our residents.”