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Wu Directs BPDA To Accelerate Approvals For Affordable Housing

Mayor Michelle Wu signing an executive order to streamline approvals for affordable housing.

Boston faces a shortage of affordable housing, but securing approvals to build new projects can take up to 337 days. Mayor Michelle Wu aims to cut that time in half.

Wu signed an executive order Thursday to speed up the approval process for affordable housing in the city. The order directs the Boston Planning & Development Agency to recommend amendments to the Article 80 process to establish an alternative path for affordable housing development review.

"You can't get to a peak population, without people of color being able to afford to live in the city, without families with kids being able to and workers being able to stay in the city," Wu said. "Tackling that affordability piece has to be what unlocks the rest of it in terms of economic growth and all other areas as well."

In addition to amending the Article 80 process, the executive order has four other components: addressing zoning challenges, prioritizing affordable housing in the development review process, creating a system that tracks reviews and approvals, and establishing a governance structure to ensure implementation. 

The signing came after Wu announced the executive order last week at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce's annual Government Affairs Forum.

Wu was joined at Thursday's signing by BPDA Director and Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison, Chief of Housing Sheila Dillon, Madison Park Development Corp. CEO Leslie Reid and housing leaders. 

"The BPDA is focused on the city's biggest challenges, in our view: resilience, affordability and equity," Jemison said. "This is an example of how we're prioritizing if we're doing more to those goals."

Related Beal President Kimberly Sherman Stamler also spoke at the signing. The Boston-based firm has been developing affordable housing since the 1970s, according to its website, with its portfolio including The Beverly, The Quinn, One Back Bay and The Clarendon. 

"At its core, this executive order is going to enable teams to build affordable housing faster, which we believe is a key to solving the affordable housing crisis," Stamler said. "Reducing approval times and taking innovative approaches to development timelines will be extremely beneficial to our city and our region, to our families and to our workforce."  

Although there is not a target number of units that will funnel into the construction pipeline, Wu said she hopes that with these actions, affordable housing can be prioritized as the city's construction boom continues.

"Our approach is to be much more specific, even outside this executive order, about what types of units those have to be because if we just keep growing but we're not growing equitably, we're perpetuating the same injustices and displacement that already are at crisis levels across our neighborhoods," Wu said.