8/27/2019 0 Comments
Boston City Councilor At-Large Michael F. Flaherty, Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, has recommended passage of An Act to Further Leverage Commercial Development to Build Housing, Create Jobs, and Preserve Inclusionary Development. The Act, which is a home rule petition sponsored by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, seeks to provide the City of Boston with the ability to make adjustments to the Linkage formula and threshold for application, eliminating the restriction on making adjustments only once every three years based on Consumer Price Index (CPI), and linking the threshold to Article 80; and to codify the City of Boston’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) into the Zoning Code, allowing Boston to maintain its ability to secure IDP obligations from residential projects, regardless of zoning approvals. The recommendation for passage of this proposal comes during a time where greater affordable housing and access to jobs continues to be in high demand.
“We move Boston forward when we work collaboratively on legislative solutions to our City’s greatest needs,” said Councilor Flaherty. “Linkage, was first introduced in 1983; and unfortunately, for 17 years the City used 1983 exaction rates. The rates were first updated in 2000, when I joined the body and called upon the Boston Redevelopment Authority to take note of building boom in our City. While exaction rates have been updated several times since 1983--and most recently in 2018--the City was restricted to making adjustments only once every three years based on the Consumer Price Index(CPI). This home rule petition enables Boston to update the Linkage exaction rates on an annual basis to allow for the City to make adjustments based on the realities of the real estate market. Giving the City more flexibility and local control over the exaction rates is especially important so as we continue to go through an era of rapid growth and development.”
Throughout the legislative process, Councilor Flaherty chaired a hearing and a working session to hear from a range of stakeholders who expressed how this home rule petition - which has been filed with amendments to be more defined - would be a specific tool to address the housing crisis in Boston. The Committee heard from Chief of Housing and Director of Neighborhood Development Sheila Dillon, Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) Housing Policy Manager Tim Davis, BPDA Senior Policy Advisor Sonal Gandhi, BPDA Deputy Director for Regulatory Planning and Zoning Bryan Glascock, and Office of Workforce Development (OWD) Director Trinh Nguyen - all of whom spoke in support on behalf of Mayor Walsh’s Administration. Additionally, the Committee heard testimony from President of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau Pam Kocher, Chief Executive Officer of NAIOP Massachusetts Tamara Small, members of UNITE HERE Local 26, Senior Vice President of Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) Amy Nishman, President of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) Joe Kriesberg, Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA) Community Organizer Cortina Vann, as well as other residents, affordable housing advocates, and job training organizations.
The goals of the legislation are to allow the City of Boston to have local control and flexibility regarding Linkage adjustments based on the housing market conditions; and to codify Inclusionary Development into into the City of Boston’s Zoning Code. This allows the City to maintain its ability to secure IDP obligations from residential projects, regardless of the need for zoning approvals. The codification of inclusionary development into the zoning code is especially important in light of the efforts to modernize our City’s zoning codes.
Further, any recommendations for changes to the inclusionary development percentage by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (d/b/a Boston Planning & Development Agency) would need a two-thirds City Council approval before proceeding to the Zoning Commission for final review.
“Boston is going through a housing crisis and we need to legislate accordingly. This proposal allows for the City to advance its affordable housing goals through two successful programs - linkage and inclusionary development,” said Councilor Flaherty. “The wide variety of stakeholders who spoke on this proposal expressed in-depth knowledge of the need for affordable housing and strong, forward thinking legislation that balances our need for affordable housing and market-rate development during this booming real estate development market.”
The home rule petition was voted on by the Council at its formal session on Wednesday, August 21, 2019. The home rule petition now seeks to be signed by Mayor Walsh, after which the legislative proposal will seek state approval.