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Mayor Wu Announces Progress Toward Reforming Inclusionary Development Policy and Commercial Linkage Program

Mayor Michelle Wu today announced the selection of research and consulting firm David Paul Rosen & Associates (DRA) to study Boston’s Inclusionary Development Policy, as well as an 11-member Technical Advisory Committee to guide the study. Mayor Wu also announced the selection of Karl Seidman Consulting Services and ConsultEcon, Inc. to study Boston’s commercial Linkage program, focusing in particular on commercial lab space. These studies will closely look at ways in which the City can increase the amount of affordable housing in Boston. 

“Safe, affordable housing is the foundation of our City’s recovery,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “As we work to address Boston’s housing crisis, I’m grateful to this team and committee who will drive these critical steps forward to ensure Boston is a city for everyone.” 

Boston’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) was created by Executive Order in 2000. The policy requires that market rate residential developments with ten or more units in need of zoning relief support the creation of income-restricted housing through on-site units, off-site units, or through payment to the IDP Fund managed by the Mayor’s Office of Housing. The IDP was last updated in December 2015. In January 2021, the Massachusetts State Legislature approved a Home Rule Petition that allows Boston to codify inclusionary development into the zoning code. Through 2021, almost 3,600 on-site and off-site income-restricted units have been created through the IDP and the fund has supported the construction or preservation of nearly 2,500 additional income-restricted units. 

 The study will look at a range of options to update the policy, including increasing the proportion of units that are income-restricted to at least 20 percent, deepening affordability requirements, increasing contribution fees to the IDP Fund, and other reforms so as to better meet Boston’s housing needs.

David Paul Rosen & Associates (DRA) is a California based housing research and consulting firm with a deep knowledge of inclusionary housing policies. Founded in 1980, DRA has extensive experience advising cities, housing authorities, nonprofit developers and for-profit developers on affordable housing development, underwriting, origination, asset management, program design, strategic planning, and best practices. DRA has helped more than 40 communities research and develop inclusionary housing programs, in lieu fees, and other housing mitigation measures, including Cambridge, MA; New York City, NY; Los Angeles, CA; San Jose, CA; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; Denver, CO; Chapel Hill, NC; and Philadelphia, PA.

Mayor Wu also announced the formation of a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to shape the IDP study. The TAC will include individuals with a range of backgrounds and perspectives, including advocates, policy experts, and for-profit and nonprofit developers. The members of this committee are:

  • Donna Brown, Executive Director, South Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation
  • Jesse Kanson-Benanav, Executive Director, Abundant Housing Massachusetts
  • George Lee, Coalition for a Truly Affordable Boston/Keep it 100 for Real Affordable Housing & Racial Justice
  • Abe Menzin, Principal and Executive Vice President of Development, Samuels & Associates
  • Greg Minott, Managing Principal, the D/R/E/A/M Collaborative
  • Markeisha Moore, Coalition for a Truly Affordable Boston/Dot Not For Sale
  • Leslie Reid, Chief Executive Officer, Madison Park Development Corporation
  • Erica Schwarz, Board Member, Boston Neighborhood Community Land Trust
  • Tamara Small, Chief Executive Officer, NAIOP Massachusetts
  • Peter Spellios, Principal, Transom Real Estate
  • Justin Steil, Associate Professor of Law and Urban Planning, MIT

The 2021 Home Rule Petition also gave the City of Boston the power to more readily make changes to the Linkage policy without seeking further state approval. The City increased linkage fees with this new flexibility in March 2021. Mayor Wu has directed the Mayor’s Office of Housing to evaluate additional changes to the policy. This study will examine the relationship between new commercial development and the need for new, income-restricted housing and job training and will also consider policy options such as increasing the linkage fees, lowering the square footage that triggers linkage fees, and differentiating between different development types..

Karl Seidman Consulting Services and ConsultEcon, Inc. completed the last linkage study for Boston in 2016. For 25 years, Karl F. Seidman was Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught classes in Economic Development Finance, Economic Development Planning and Revitalizing Urban Main Streets. Seidman founded ConsultEcon, Inc. in 1991 to provide services to clients in the areas of project and plan concept development, evaluation, and implementation, in the fields of real estate, community economic development, adaptive reuse, and visitor attractions and tourism. Over the last ten years, in addition to Boston, this team has completed or is in the process of completing similar studies for Cambridge, Everett, New Bedford, Somerville, and Watertown.

The Linkage program began in 1983, with the approval of Article 26 of the Boston Zoning Code, which sought to balance large-scale commercial development with needed residential construction. In 1986, the City of Boston launched the Neighborhood Housing Trust (NHT) to manage housing linkage funds, and expanded Article 26 to include job training as an element of the linkage program, now managed through the Neighborhood Jobs Trust (NJT). From 1987 to 2021, the Neighborhood Housing Trust collected $217.1 million in funds, $102 million of which was collected in the last ten years. These funds have supported the creation of 7,149 new income-restricted units, and preserved 5,795 existing income-restricted units. From 1988 to 2021, the Neighborhood Jobs Trust disbursed over $69 million in Linkage funds to support Boston’s education and workforce development efforts, with almost $3.5 million disbursed in 2021 alone.

Both the IDP and the Linkage studies are expected to be completed over the next several months and make policy recommendations to the Mayor’s Office of Housing in September. Last December, Mayor Wu announced her intention to launch these studies alongside a suite of complementary initiatives to increase affordable housing in Boston. 

These announcements build on Mayor Wu’s initiatives to address Boston’s housing affordability, including filing a Home Rule Petition relative to real estate transfer fees and senior property tax relief, signing an Executive Order relative to affirmatively furthering fair housing, convening a Rent Stabilization Advisory Committee to inform future legislative proposals, and announcing the City’s new Chief of Planning

About the Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOH)

The Mayor’s Office of Housing is responsible for housing people experiencing homelessness, creating and preserving affordable housing, and ensuring that renters and homeowners can obtain, maintain, and remain in safe, stable housing. The department develops and implements the City of Boston’s housing creation and homelessness prevention plans and collaborates with local and national partners to find new solutions and build more housing affordable to all, particularly those with lower incomes. For more information, please visit the MOH website.

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