June 3, 2019
June 10, 2019
Poll: Zoning Reform, More Housing In The Suburbs Viewed As Solutions To Boston’s Affordability Problem
Solving Boston’s affordable housing problem is going to require zoning reform and work beyond city limits, according to a poll of Bisnow readers.
Of the 48 responses to the non-scientific survey, a part of a featured series on the city’s approach to affordability, 93% said Boston’s suburbs need to do more with housing production to help bring down costs.
While Boston leaders and developers often tout their focus on creating more affordable housing, they have also stressed affordability is a subject the city can’t handle on its own. But readers don’t seem optimistic the suburbs will do their part.
Only one person said it was very likely the outlying towns and municipalities would push for more density or affordable housing within their borders. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said it was somewhat likely, and 60% said it was not likely at all the region would see more suburban progress in the affordability arena.
But there are other solutions that Bisnow readers think Boston can reasonably accomplish from City Hall.
Zoning reform is what 68% of respondents said will bring the biggest solution to Boston’s affordability issues. Sixty-two percent of respondents said streamlining the approval and community process would help.
Other factors like greater density (56%), municipalities calling for more housing production (50%) and an increase in modular and prefabricated construction (45%) are also seen as leading ways to bring costs down.
Respondents feel a combination of Boston’s tough approval and community process (29%), high construction prices (25%) and neighborhood opposition (25%) has been keeping the city from finding a path to more affordable living.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh has promised changes are coming to the city’s Inclusionary Development Policy, which creates affordable units in market-rate projects with 10 or more units or requires developers to contribute to an accompanying affordable housing fund.
Most respondents (68%) said the IDP in its current form does not do enough, but, in a separate question, a plurality of respondents (45%) said keeping the IDP rate at its current affordability rate requirement was the best solution.
Nearly 30% of respondents said raise the on-site inclusionary development rate to 18%, and 14% hope the city goes even higher than that. Only 10% said the IDP rate should be lower than its current form.
As Boston has become one of the most expensive places in the world to live, it is often compared to San Francisco, the most expensive major U.S. city in which to find a home, which has a technology and life science-driven economy similar to Boston's.
A slight majority (58%) of respondents said Boston can still turn things around and avoid being the San Francisco of the East Coast, while 41% of respondents said it was too late.
More to the point, one respondent in the poll said what many Boston residents might already feel: There are no solutions to Boston’s affordability issues.