By Councilor Annissa Essaibi George
Right now, Boston’s residents are struggling to pay rent, our families can’t find or afford stable housing, and too many individuals are experiencing chronic homelessness. The past year has only emphasized these realities and the effects will last long after the pandemic.
Affordability and accessibility of both rental units and homes for sale is key for a thriving city. We need to ensure that everyone who wants to call Boston home has the opportunity, option and a pathway to ownership to do so. We can start by building more housing and ensuring what we build is actually affordable for Boston’s residents.
Our housing stock must also be a reflection of the needs of those who call this city home. That’s why I’ve called for a hearing on our City’s existing residential unit diversity, so we can understand what units we have and what units we need to equitably house our residents and more proactively shape an inclusive and thriving city. We need to see what’s out there and then act accordingly. We need to plan, then build for the realities of our residents.
Much of our focus should be on creating housing for the many residents and families that don’t qualify for subsidized housing, but still cannot afford to pay market rate. This large gap is causing low to middle income families to fall through the cracks. We need affordable, multi-bedroom housing for our families and we need to push developers to build it. We must also look into amending and updating HUD’s Area Median Income (AMI) standard for the city. The formula does not reflect the income of the many residents who need more affordable housing.
For those who do qualify for subsidized housing, the housing voucher allocation processes are not consistent and the number of available vouchers varies dramatically year to year. As Mayor, I will push for dedicated investments in public housing and extremely low-income housing and improve measures to prevent race-based and income-based voucher discriminatory behavior.
Housing production should also provide our residents more opportunities for home ownership. In order to address the affordable housing crisis and the racial wealth gap, we need to make sure our investments in affordable rental units and homeownership units are aligned. Many of the residents in our City-funded rental units are paying about 70% of AMI, which equates to $1,400 a month for a one bedroom unit. If they are able to pay that much in rent, they can also afford and sustain a monthly mortgage of the same amount—we just have to make home ownership accessible!
The City also has to invest more in our first time homebuyers program, which not only prepares first time home buyers looking to purchase their first homes, but also offers residents, many of whom would not be able to otherwise, the opportunity to purchase a home by qualifying to make a below average down payment upon purchase and lower monthly mortgage rates.
Finally, more must be done to encourage the creation of more senior-specific housing and ensure that those who have made Boston their home can stay here. We must support our seniors to age in the community they call home by creating more secure and accessible affordable housing options, including housing for older residents who identify as LGBTQIA+ or older residents with disabilities.
I was born and raised in Boston. I feel so fortunate that my parents were able to settle here and make this city my family’s home. I’m proud to raise my children here. I want that for all of Boston’s families and anyone else that loves Boston enough to choose it over any place else in this world. As Mayor, I’ll work relentlessly to make this happen.
Annissa Essaibi George, is a City Councilor, At-Large and a candidate for mayor.