City Councilor Michelle Wu, in partnership with City Councilor Liz Breadon, filed a hearing order last week on the city’s Inclusion of Daycare Facilities zoning regulations with the aim of updating these regulations to make early education and childcare more accessible and affordable, and getting transparent answers from BPDA on existing enforcement. Boston’s first Inclusion of Daycare Facilities (IDF) regulation was incorporated into the Zoning Code in 1989, requiring that buildings above a certain size threshold must either set aside space for an on-site early education facility or contribute to the creation of such facilities off-site. Similar regulations now apply in 15 districts largely in Boston’s downtown area.
However, these regulations have been inconsistently enforced by the BPDA with little transparency. The neighborhoods included in the zoning regulations do not extend to some of the most developed downtown neighborhoods in Boston; moreover, workplace-based care may not be convenient for guardians with non-standard or irregular work hours, particularly given the recent shift toward more remote work. Unlike the linkage program, the IDF regulations do not create a designated fund for developer contributions, leaving the BPDA to determine the size and use of developers’ financial contributions on an ad-hoc basis. Wu and Breadon called for a hearing to suggest updates to the regulation to help build and fund more childcare sites that are accessible and affordable for Boston families, and get clear answers from the city about current enforcement.
“For families with children, the pandemic has made an already unbearable juggle impossible,” said Michelle Wu. “We must recognize early education and care as critical infrastructure for our youngest learners, their families, and our economy–especially through Boston’s recovery. Boston has made some strides in expanding Pre-K seats through dedicated staff and community partnerships, but it’s time to simplify our patchwork system and guarantee access for all families. As a policymaker and a mom, I know the difference that city leadership will make for our families–from easing stress on working parents, to giving our youngest learners the best foundation for life, to investing in our early education and childcare workforce to create sustainable career pathways for our residents. Now is the moment for bold, urgent leadership to value early education and care as a public good.”
As a working mom, Councilor Michelle Wu is intimately familiar with the challenges and gaps that families with young children in Boston face. In 2014, she became the first sitting Boston City Councilor to become pregnant and give birth–to her older son Blaise–who is now 6 years-old and a K2 student at the Sumner School. In 2017, she became the first City Council President to have a baby, when she and her family welcomed Cass (now 3 years-old, waiting in BPS K1 lottery) to the world. She has written about the juggle of being a working mom and navigating multimodal transportation as a mom, and was the lead author of Boston’s Paid Parental Leave ordinance, which was signed into law in 2015 and was later highlighted by President Barack Obama in a Labor Day speech. As City Council President, she convened her colleagues to lead the charge in removing barriers to childcare access.