Boston Housing Production and Main Streets Funding Get a Boost

April 11, 2013, — Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced today that this spring, five million dollars will be made available to build housing in the City of Boston. The funds will come from the City’s Inclusionary Development Fund, and are being made available after a comprehensive review of that fund’s finances and fiscal controls.
One Greenway in Boston Chinatown broke ground in late 2013 (file photo).

“For Boston to continue to grow and thrive, we need to ensure that everyone in Boston, regardless of their economic situation, has a place to call home,” Mayor Walsh said. “The ability to put out these funds is the result of the hard work of many people pulling together to review the Inclusionary Development Program. I am pleased that we have not only completed a comprehensive financial review, but that we have also implemented administrative changes that mean that these funds will be managed through a more open and transparent process.”

At Mayor Walsh’s direction, the City recently completed an exhaustive review of all the financial records of the BRA’s Inclusionary Development Fund. The Inclusionary Development Policy requires developers of new housing with 10 or more units to set aside a portion of their units as below-market affordable housing, as a condition of receiving relief from the Boston Zoning Code. Currently, the policy requires that 15 percent of the market rate units in a development are to be set aside for affordable housing. In the 14 years since its inception, 1,479 new affordable units have been created as a result of this policy.

Developers also have the option of making payments into an affordable housing fund, in lieu of producing the affordable units on-site. Currently, that payment must be no less than $200,000 per unit. In its 14-year history, a total of $58.1 million in funding has been collected by the BRA, of which $56.4 million has been spent on or committed to 54 affordable housing projects and programs. Another $43.1 million will be received in the next few years as developers with approved projects move into construction and start making payments.

The City’s Department of Neighborhood Development has been tasked with establishing a new, transparent process for the disbursement of these funds, which had previously been held by the BRA. By June, DND expects to have $5 million on hand, which will be disbursed in a competitive funding round.

In addition, several other administrative reforms are being implemented around management of the fund. The City of Boston’s Treasury Department will now have a greater role in ensuring that developers pay their obligations in full and on time, and the fund will also now be subject to annual financial audits, to be performed by an independent third party. Future agreements with developers will also be jointly approved by the Director of the BRA and the Chief of Housing, ensuring that the interests of both the developer and the affordable housing sector are accommodated in any future deals. Mayor Walsh has tasked his recently-appointed Housing Task Force with a review of the Inclusionary Development Policy and recommendations for further reforms to make the policy work better for both developers and affordable housing providers.

Mayor Walsh also announced today that in his first 100 days in office, the City reached a key landmark in housing development: permitting more than 1,000 units of new housing. The City reached the target with the announcement of permitting around the Watermark Seaport development in South Boston.

“We must keep our housing stock growing to keep pace with the City’s economic growth,” said Mayor Walsh. “We are going to continue to support strong, thoughtful development in the city, while addressing concerns of our residents around housing options across the City.”

The Walsh Administration set an internal working goal of permitting 1,000 units within the first 100 days in office. To date, since Mayor Walsh took office, the City has permitted 1,069 new units of housing. New housing across the city serving a wide range of incomes is now underway: 475 Albany Street will redevelop the old Teradyne parking lot in the South End into 378 new apartments including 38 affordable units; Roxbury Crossing Senior Housing in Mission Hill will create 40 units of affordable elderly housing; and the Saint Kevin’s redevelopment in Dorchester will create 80 new affordable apartments.

Of the 1,069 new units permitted, 22 percent will be below-market affordable housing. Eighty-eight percent of the new units will be rental. In total, these projects will result in almost a half-billion dollars of private investment that will create hundreds of new construction jobs.

Mayor Walsh Increases Funding for Boston’s Main Street Districts

Today, Mayor Martin J. Walsh joined Boston Main Street Directors, city officials, and community leaders in Roslindale Village to highlight increased funding for Boston’s 20 Main Street Districts. As outlined in Mayor Walsh’s FY15 budget, released this week, Main Streets District funding will increase by $400,000 over last year, with each Main Streets District receiving $75,000 annually from the City — a 30 percent increase.

“Investing in our Main Streets districts preserves and protects our neighborhood commercial centers, and helps our small businesses thrive, grow, and adapt to the changing economy,” said Mayor Walsh. “Access to a variety of retail in neighborhoods is critical to maintaining robust and connected communities.”

Main Streets Districts programs across Boston offer varying business support services and programs, often unique to the needs of each district. Recent programs have included enhanced cleanliness programs, storefront improvement programs, promotional events, farmers markets, and social media training events. The increased funding will be used to implement innovative new programs to continue the critical support work.

The Roslindale Village Main Street District was the first urban Main Street District in the country. With more than a dozen ethnic grocers, bakeries, small family restaurants, and specialty shops, it is a shopping and food destination for the community and the Greater Boston area. The increase in funding will enable Roslindale Village Main Streets to explore potential programs such as a year-round model for their Saturday farmers market, which currently attracts more than 3,000 people on Saturdays throughout the spring and summer.

Mayor Walsh identified the increased funding in his $2.7 billion Operating Budget for fiscal year 2015. Other planned projects in Boston’s Main Streets Districts include free public WiFi, and a new partnership between the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Department of Neighborhood Development that will invest in neighborhood innovation and incubator space, funding for programs such as crowdsourcing to identify community need, and other resources to look at challenges such as access to capital and the way vacant storefronts are filled with new potential businesses.
City Councilor Michelle Wu attended 2014 Chinatown Main Street Gala (file photo).

About Boston Main Streets

There are more than 4,000 businesses across Boston’s 20 Main Streets Districts. The Boston Main Streets initiative was created in 1995, as the first urban, multi-district Main Streets program in the nation, with the goal of establishing thriving commercial districts throughout the city. Named by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change as one of 19 “Solutions for America,” Boston Main Streets continues to empower individuals in both the small business sector and residents to have a direct role in the economic health, physical appearance, and development of their own community. Today, Boston Main Streets provides funding and technical assistance to 20 neighborhood-based Main Streets districts throughout the City of Boston and has served as a national model to urban areas seeking to revitalize neighborhood commercial districts including Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, Detroit, and New Orleans.

Districts include: Allston Village Main Streets, Brighton Main Streets, Chinatown Main Street, Dudley Square Main Streets, East Boston Main Streets, Egleston Square Main Street, Fields Corner Main Street, Four Corners Main Street, Greater Grove Hall Main Streets, Hyde/Jackson Square Main Street, Hyde Park Main Streets, JP/Centre South Main Streets, Mission Hill Main Streets, Mattapan Square Main Streets, Roslindale Village Main Street, St Mark’s Area Main Street, Upham’s Corner Main Street, Washington Gateway Main Street, and West Roxbury Main Streets.