Boston 2030: Mayor Walsh’s Vision for Development
October 10, 2014
October 10, 2014
The Solomon McCown team was on hand as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh formally announced his housing plan. Dubbed Boston 2030, Walsh proposed bringing an additional 53,000 housing units online in the next 16 years, with 20,000 of those affordable for middle-income Bostonians. “We have to make sure there is housing for everyone; prosperity must reach every neighborhood,” Walsh said in his remarks.
Walsh also tackled the thorny issue of off-campus student housing, urging colleges and universities to build additional dorm space, estimating that an additional 16,000 dorm beds would reduce the number of student renters in the city by 50 percent. Senior housing was also mentioned, with Walsh calling for an additional 5,000 units of housing for that population.
This is the latest in a string of ambitious plans to promote greater housing development in Boston. Former Mayor Tom Menino had his own initiative called Boston 2020. Launched a little more than a year ago, Menino had called for 30,000 units in six years. Surely, reporters around the city are calling the longtime mayor for comment on Walsh’s plan.
It’s a wonderful time to be a city. Americans of all ages—from Millennials to downsizing Baby Boomers– want to live in places with amenities where cars aren’t required to get to work. But it also presents a challenge to grow in a way that maintains the diversity that draws people to our urban areas in the first place. Both Menino and Walsh are working to tackle this challenge and position Boston for continued prosperity.
Three factors we see influencing the success of Mayor Walsh’s plan are:
Our infrastructure: It’s amazing to see so many people moving closer to our cities. But we are using outdated and outmoded transportation systems to move them around. Ridership on the MBTA is increasing. Our roads struggle to handle all the cars that use them daily. The state needs to see our transportation system as a critical part of how we can best grow, and invest in it appropriately. Stop-gap measures will no longer work.
Public-private collaboration: Walsh knows he has to work with developers, nonprofits, and others to spur the massive investment it will take to build more than 3,000 units of housing annually for 16 years. When developers see the specifics, will it be enough to make middle-income housing financially feasible? Let’s hope.
Show us the money: Walsh has offered zoning relief, tax incentives, and other incentives for developers. The Boston Herald dives deep on the Community Preservation Act tax that Walsh’s plan says will account for the lion’s share of funding for development, pointing out that voters rejected the one percent surcharge on property tax bills in 2001. Without buy-in from current residents, the ambitious plan may be in trouble.
We’re thrilled to see Boston’s leaders taking this approach to developing the Boston of the future, and look forward to being part of it.