- Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced on Monday a comprehensive housing security and economic mobility legislative package.
- The 14-bill package, which he detailed in a Boston Herald Op-Ed, aims to promote equity, opportunity and resilience by “preserving neighborhoods, stabilizing vulnerable households, supporting small businesses, removing barriers that keep people in poverty [and] providing new pathways to good jobs.” The bills would provide greater protections for low-income residents facing eviction and ensure they have an attorney, in addition to better protecting residents over 75 from eviction, and limiting rent increases of more than 5% a year.
- The package is the first of four that Walsh plans to present to the state legislature.
Boston has been hit hard by the nation’s affordable housing crisis and Walsh has been at the forefront of finding solutions to ease the burden on citizens. The city released a request for proposals for affordable housing projects the city could financially support, adopted short-term rental regulations and established a $10 million private-donor fund to raise money for homelessness mitigation projects. Last year, Walsh was named chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Community Development and Housing committee.
The recent work builds on the Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030 plan the city adopted shortly after Walsh took office four years ago. The plan originally aimed to create 53,000 new housing units by 2030, and last year that was upped to more than 69,000 units.
Areas beyond Boston are feeling the housing squeeze, and 14 neighboring cities and towns created a housing partnership to address common concerns. The difficulty hasn’t just remained within the greater Boston area, either. The state of Massachusetts as a whole has a housing crunch and Gov. Charlie Barker has passed a number of housing measures including short-term rental regulations and a $10 million plan to create 135,000 housing units throughout the state by 2025.
Affordability and capacity have been the two hot issues on which housing crisis discussions have focused. But Walsh’s legislative package puts an even stronger emphasis on providing equitable housing options. The proposals offer protections not only for low-income residents, but also aging citizens who generally have limited incomes and less ability to adapt to rent increases.
About 20% of Boston’s housing units are rent-controlled, states Walsh’s Op-Ed, but “to keep up with demand and keep housing affordable, the answer is clear: we simply need more housing.” Walsh said he submitted the legislative package so Boston could get additional resources from the state to further progress on affordable housing.
Boston Herald Expanding opportunity key to initiatives
My goal as Mayor of Boston is to expand opportunity for all our residents. Over the last five years, we’ve worked hard to ensure that everyone has access to quality schools, good jobs, and a safe and secure home. We’ve come a long way, and we’ve set ambitious goals to take this work even further — we’ve increased our affordable housing goals, created a regional housing partnership with leaders around Greater Boston, and dedicated over $100 million to build and maintain affordable housing in Boston. And we’re going to do more.
To continue this work, Monday I’m unveiling the first of four legislative packages to Beacon Hill, starting with housing security and economic mobility. The 14-bill package shows how we can promote equity, opportunity and resilience by preserving neighborhoods, stabilizing vulnerable households, supporting small businesses, removing barriers that keep people in poverty, providing new pathways to good jobs and continuing to leverage Boston’s prosperity to build a more inclusive and equitable city.
To understand how these bills would continue to expand opportunity for people in Boston and the Commonwealth, it’s important to know how far we’ve come and what challenges remain.
For years, housing costs have been a big challenge for people in our communities and across the country. Many families struggle to pay their rent, and first-time homebuyers face major obstacles. That’s why we’ve tackled this issue head-on: by increasing our affordable housing goals and working hard to make sure that everyone in our city has a place to call home.
We’ve doubled down on economic mobility by supporting small businesses, many of them owned by women, immigrants and people of color. We’re reforming parts of the system that create barriers and keep people in poverty. And we’re providing new pathways into good jobs.
About one in five housing units in Boston is income-restricted, meaning it’s set aside for people with lower incomes. We’re proud to be a national leader in this regard. But in order to keep up with demand and keep housing affordable, the answer is clear: we simply need more housing. Last year we increased our housing goals from 53,000 to 69,000 new units by 2030. We worked with mayors from around Greater Boston to create a regional housing production goal of 185,000 new units of housing across the greater Boston area by the year 2030.
To continue this work and build momentum, we need additional tools and resources from the state. That’s where our legislative package comes in.
Our bills would allow Boston to secure more money to build affordable housing and secure the funding that we extract from private developers. For example, when developers begin new projects in Boston, we’ll ask them to include affordable units, or pay into a fund for affordable housing production in the city. With our new bills, we’ll be able to do this work more effectively. We will also support a bill that will increase the state match on local funding raised from the Community Preservation Act.
While we continue to build affordable housing, we must work to protect our most vulnerable residents. Our bills will create more protections for low income residents who are facing eviction, ensuring them an attorney if they can’t afford one. In addition, we are proposing that residents over 75 years of age are protected from evictions by limiting no-fault evictions and rent increases of more than 5% a year.
Finally, our bills would ensure that renters whose landlords are selling their apartments or homes have the “right of first refusal”. That means renters, or their designees, can offer to buy their homes first, at fair market value, if it’s put on the market by the landlord.
These common sense solutions will help protect Boston residents and allow them to remain in the communities they love. We must continue to increase affordable housing in Boston while we provide common sense protections for low income and older Bostonians.
That’s why addressing the cost of renting, buying and living in our city is our top priority. To stay a world-class city, we need to offer affordable homes for the working families that make our our city and our neighborhoods the special places they are. I look forward to submitting our housing package to the legislature to ensure Boston remains a city that works for all of our residents and families.
Boston passes short-term rental regulations, Katie Pyzyk, Smart Cities Dive, June 20, 2018
- The Boston City Council approved an amended ordinance limiting short-term rentals commonly found on online booking platforms such as Airbnb or HomeAway. The new rules will take effect on January 1, but current home renters will be able to operate under the previous system until September 2019.
- Only property owners — not renters — may enter into short-term rental agreements. Owners must actually occupy their units in order to rent them, which eliminates investors from participating in short-term rentals. Hosts must register with the city and pay an annual registration fee that ranges from $25-$200, depending on which of the three rental types they fall under. The city will levy fines of $100 per day for a host’s failure to register and failure to comply with a violation notice, and $300 per day for renting an ineligible housing unit.
- Booking platforms will have to submit data to the city each month, including on rental property locations, whether the rental is one room or a whole unit and for how many nights the property was rented.
Boston leaders have been seriously discussing various proposals for short-term rental regulations for about three years, and Mayor Marty Walsh introduced an ordinance in January. However, he pulled that ordinance in March for additional work on some of the items like enforcement, and submitted the revised version in May.
Supporters of the ordinance say that Boston is in a housing crisis, and short-term rentals reduce housing capacity while driving up costs for residents. Investor units are especially viewed as a problem because they essentially can be run like hotels. “The commercialization of short-term rentals in residential dwellings and residential neighborhoods … is contrary to the Administration’s goal of adding 53,000 units of housing across a variety of income levels by 2030,” said a press release from the mayor’s office earlier this year.
Walsh had been among the leaders repeatedly voicing the desire to devise an ordinance to help preserve affordable housing while still allowing residents to earn income from renting their homes.
Cities besides Boston are opting for or exploring similarly restrictive regulations on short-term rentals to ease their housing crises. Airbnb told Smart Cities Dive earlier this year that it was proud of the collaborations it had with cities like Seattle and New Orleans on shaping their regulations and short-term rental oversight measures.
However, the company and others like it have become ensconced in battles with municipalities in recent months. In May, the New Orleans City Council temporarily banned whole-home rentals until leaders could devise new regulations, even though the rules had only been in effect for a year. Last week, Santa Monica, CA won a court case against Airbnb in which the company claimed the city’s requirement of verifying that rental hosts are registered violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights.
Despite the loud support by housing advocates for Boston’s new regulations, critics point out that the city’s housing crisis goes far beyond short-term rentals, and that putting the lion’s share of the blame on companies like Airbnb won’t solve the wide-reaching problem.
- Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created the Atlas of Inequality, which shows income inequality among people who visit different places throughout the Boston area. It’s part of a larger initiative to understand how human behavior and large scale problems like transportation, housing, segregation and inequality in urban areas depend, in part, on the patterns of people’s individual opportunities and choices.
- The interactive map shows the places people visit most — including restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters and stores — using anonymized, aggregated location data. It shows the socioeconomic backgrounds of people who visit each location, how similar the incomes of all visitors are and how much time they spend at the location. More blue dots on the map indicate greater diversity, meaning more people from all income groups visit the location. More red dots indicate greater inequality, meaning the location is more segregated by income group.
- Billions of data points were gathered from about 150,000 users by Cuebiq’s location intelligence (provided through their Data for Good initiative) from October 2016 to March 2017. They were analyzed along with census information to determine user income groups and visitation patterns. Researchers used the Foursquare API to identify 30,000 places people visit. Users had to stop at a place for more than five minutes for it to count.
The researchers discovered that commonly visited places, like coffee shops, can be within a few feet of each other but they can each primarily have visitors from completely different income brackets. This indicates that economic inequality isn’t just present at the neighborhood level, but it can also show up among the places people visit as part of their daily routines. It suggests that income inequality might impact not just where people live, but also where they go.
There were a few limitations to the study that make the researchers note their results could be incomplete. First, the locations were limited to those available via the Foursquare API. Second, the methodology does not account for GPS noise, so some user visit data could be wrong. And third, users were selected based on having consistent home locations during the six-month study period, which eliminates smartphone users who are homeless, in transition or work shifts between 8 p.m and 4 a.m. Still, the map is believed to be largely representative of the Boston area’s location-based income inequality.
The map documents income inequality, not class inequality, even though the two are commonly intertwined in colloquial terms. Boston’s struggle with income inequality is well documented, including by The Boston Globe, which explains that the surge in wealth in some areas and poverty in others several decades ago has eliminated many mixed-income neighborhoods.
Earlier this year, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced a comprehensive legislative package to address housing security and economic mobility. The goal of the 14-bill package is to promote equity, opportunity and resilience, and to provide greater housing protections for low-income residents. Walsh reportedly plans to send three other similar bills to the state legislature this year.
Last year the city partnered with 100 Resilient Cities to host a three-day gathering of chief resilience officers and other officials from eight cities to address another issue related to inequality: racial disparity and systemic inequality. They discussed how local leaders can promote more equitable delivery of core services — such as housing and transportation — to all residents.
The Atlas of Inequality has the potential to help city leaders identify areas of inequality at a micro level that could be targeted for improvements. For example, it could assist with better determining where low-income residents visit and why. The “why” is a big part of improving service distribution, as discovered in Chicago when analyzing bike-share programs. A study by researchers at Northwestern University found that residents in low-income neighborhoods don’t take to some city services such as bike-share at the same rate as those in high-income neighborhoods because they’re skeptical of gentrification and believe other service improvements are more pressing.
- MIT Media LabAtlas of Inequality