Boston Mayor announced plans to expand downtown with residential spaces

Photo Credit: Breno Assis / Unsplash

By Sydney Ko
Boston University News Service 

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced a plan to revitalize downtown post-pandemic Oct. 27. Her plan provides a set of recommendations aiming to create more residential development.

In an 86-page report, Wu’s administration identified six areas they hope to improve. The points included expanding housing downtown, growing hospitality services, improving transportation infrastructure, supporting underserved populations’ small businesses and growing Boston’s tourism.

Wu’s plan to expand housing includes converting office spaces into residential and student housing. The plan, in particular, would ensure affordable housing for Boston residents.  

According to the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, the Greater Boston area is estimated to be short 38,000 housing units for its population.

Karen Wiener, Chief Operating Officer at Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, said the crisis comes down simply to not having enough houses in Boston. Considering how “desirable” the city of Boston is, Wiener said it is the city’s responsibility to ensure everyone has a place to live.

“I like what Mayor Wu has talked about—to expedite building affordable housing because it can take a long time,” she said.

Wiener explained that expediting the expansion is important because the more time the city takes to build housing, the longer the crisis goes on, and the more people are left in need of a place to stay.

“There’s just not enough housing built [for the people], so that hikes the price up, making [houses] a sort of scarce commodity,” Wiener said.

On top of supporting housing expansion, Wu’s report also proposes an update to “zoning considerations” that would advance housing affordability in Boston.

Wiener said that to provide more affordable housing, the city and developers need to focus on “zoning,” which refers to local laws that regulate the property that can and cannot be used in certain areas. She also noted that Wu’s handling of developing housing has been “good,” but she stressed that more areas in Boston need to be zoned for multi-family housing like apartments and condos. Especially areas around central workplace hubs and large commuters.

“A recent bill passed by the legislature asked communities around MBTA station to have more up-zone to build more buildings around,” Wiener said. This was aimed at improving accessibility to public transport by having more housing options near train stations.

 “I think it’s critical to allow more multifamily housing,” Wiener said. She added developing multifamily housing would provide opportunities to build new communities.  

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