More public resources means more affordability

Boston Tenant Coalition Victory

In spring of 2006 Mayor Menino announced changes to the City’s Inclusionary Zoning policy that could raise tens of millions of dollars for affordable housing, create new units, and better target those new resources and units for low- and moderate-income families and individuals.

Inclusionary Zoning – also known as Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) – directs housing developers to set aside a certain percentage of their new units as affordable. In some cases, instead of building the units on site, the developer has the option to build the units off-site or pay into a fund for affordable housing. While the City has had an IDP since 2000, the Boston Tenant Coalition and other housing allies have sought reforms to the policy. The BTC advocated for an increased percentage of affordable units and larger pay-outs into the fund, as well as for the units and funds generated by IDP to be truly affordable, as many of the units created were not affordable to most Boston residents.

Part of the problem was the City’s use of the area median income, or AMI ($82,600 for a family of four), which was almost twice the amount of the Boston city median household income ($42,600 for a family of four). The AMI is the median income of 142 cities and towns, many with much higher income levels than Boston, and does not include individuals (which are overwhelmingly elderly) or non-family households. Last year At-Large City Councilor Felix Arroyo filed a resolution and held a hearing about the affordability issue encouraging the City of Boston to use the Boston city median household income when designing affordable housing programs. The BTC and our member groups mobilized and organized testimony for the hearing to draw attention to this critical issue of unaffordable ‘affordable’ housing.

The Massachusetts Association for Community Development Corporations (MACDC), an important BTC ally, published a report that examined Boston’s IDP in a national context and recommended several changes. The BTC arranged a series of meetings with City officials about the IDP, including tenant, homeless, and community groups spanning Boston’s neighborhoods. In addition, the BTC asked the new Housing and Homeless Committees Chair, At- Large City Councilor Sam Yoon to hold a hearing about IDP.

As a result of all of this advocacy by the BTC and its allies, the City made several significant changes to the IDP including: more than doubling the pay-out required for developers, distributing the funds generated by IDP in a much more transparent manner, lowering the income targets of the beneficiaries of the program, and using the Boston median income (instead of the area median income) as a measure in determining income eligibility.

The BTC will monitor the implementation of these changes to IDP and will continue to advocate for the units and funds created by IDP to benefit low- and very low-income families in addition to more moderate-income households.

For more information about Boston’s IDP and the BTC’s efforts call the BTC at 617-423-8609.