Mayor Michelle Wu held her first Neighborhood Media Rountable virtually on Monday, March 7, allowing local reporters a chance to ask her questions in an informal setting.
Asked whether her administration would stay the course with the ambitious housing goals set by the Walsh Administration, Mayor Wu said her administration is trying to be “intentional” by putting federal funding that the city receives into “deeply affordable housing” targeted to specific demographics, such as seniors or artists.
“We trying to be very specific about housing and not just focus on the numbers,” she said “At the root of all this is planning. We need to build the equitable, sustainable, holistic communities that each one of our neighborhoods deserves.”
One of the immediate next steps for her administration is an audit of city-owned properties, said Mayor Wu, with an eye on which ones could become the sites of future affordable and supportive housing to help end the cycle of displacement from the city.
“There are folks who have built our community, who are embedded in our community, and who can no longer afford to live in our city,” said Mayor Wu. “Unfortunately, I’ve heard countless stories from former staff members, from friends, and from former neighbors who are no longer in our city because of housing instability.”
The Rent Stabilization Working Group is moving forward to look at what policies other cities and towns have been implemented around rent stability, she said, as well as how they would work in Boston.
Mayor Wu said housing can’t be built without sufficient infrastructure and transportation in place beforehand, however, and that any city plan would look at housing on both the citywide and the neighborhood levels with a “holistic view.”
Like other cities, Boston should solicit public input in developing a master plan, said Mayor Wu, and “then build and permit according to that”
On the topic of climate change, Michelle Wu advocated for taking preventive measures today to avoid more costly repercussions in the future.
“We know it takes money to implement these changes…but the bigger pictures is about avoiding much bigger costs down the line,” said Mayor Wu, adding that in the current international political climate, it makes even more sense for the city to wean itself off fossil fuel as a step towards achieving “environmental stability.”
Regarding her decision to sunset the city’s existing urban renewal designations, Mayor Wu said the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s “maps don’t tie to the places where we see the most potential for growth,” and that “urban renewal always represented an enormous tilt towards internal-decision makers in a moment of urgency.”
Mayor Wu has already requested that five of the 14 urban renewal plans be sunset immediately, while the remaining plans would be extended until the end of the year as land deeds there expire, allowing the City Council time to consider its next steps.
Additionally, the maps focused mainly on downtown and largely ignored some places now ripe with development, like the Allston 1-90 interchange and parts of Hyde Park, she said.
Mayor Wu admitted the city is currently lagging a bit behind in its search for a chief of planning.
“We’ve met internally, but we’re not at the point of a defined short list at this point,” she said, adding “more internal vetting and conversations” would be happening first.
The city hopes to name a new Boston Police superintendent by June as well, said Mayor Wu, and they are now in the process of deciding between two search firms.
Monday, March 7, was also the first meeting of the co-chairs of the Schools Superintendent Search Committee, chaired by Jeri Robinson, and one of its first orders of business was rolling out a Request for Proposals [RFP].
With the City Council now in the midst of an ongoing process about the future of the School Committee, Mayor Wu said she wouldn’t support a fully elected Scholl Committee because she believes it needs “mayoral accountability in the governance structure.”
Meanwhile, in tackling the ongoing opioid crisis, Mayor Wu said she still considers the Long Island campus a key component in the city’s plan to deliver long-term and supportive housing for individuals in recovery, although a timeframe for the transformation of the site still remains uncertain.
Ricardo Patrón, Mayor Wu’s press secretary, said Media Roundtables would take place regularly going forward.