Connecting state and local government leaders
Boston is on track to open up dozens of parcels to developers early next year, while also offering residents direct aid to help with home-purchasing costs.
Backed by $60 million in federal pandemic relief money, Boston officials plan to make 150 municipal properties available for the construction of affordable housing and to bolster programs that make direct payments to some first-time homebuyers.
The move, announced late last week, comes as cities nationwide struggle to address severe shortages of homes to buy and rent. Potential property developments with the Boston program include apartments, townhouses, and condominiums, depending on the size of the parcel, according to a spokesperson for Mayor Michelle Wu’s office.
The spokesperson wasn't able to immediately provide an estimate for how many people the city's new initiative might help get into homes.
“We are moving as fast as possible with every single lever that the city has,” Wu said in a statement, referring to Boston’s affordable housing efforts.
Early next year, the city plans to issue a request for proposals to developers for 70 of the parcels. Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act will subsidize some building costs to ensure they’re affordable for moderate-income households.
In total, the Boston government owns nearly 3,000 properties that total 176.9 million square feet of real estate, according to a land audit completed in June. Of that, 9.5 million square feet of land, or about 5.4%, is vacant or underused.
Many of those parcels were acquired through tax foreclosures, “urban renewal” initiatives and highway projects, and present a “significant untapped resource to use public land for public good,” the land audit report said. Some properties are especially ripe for redevelopment, including parking lots, a soon-to-be-vacant police station and a storage facility.
But creating more housing isn’t the only solution the city is pursuing.
To help lower-income people purchase homes at a time when the housing market is pricey and mortgage interest rates are up, the city is also funding financial assistance programs aimed at people who are purchasing their first homes, the release said.
The city is offering discounted mortgage rates, as well as up to $50,000 for downpayment and closing-cost assistance to income-qualified residents.
Massachusetts has an overall homeownership rate of 62%, but Boston falls notably short of that at 35%, according to the mayor’s office Within the city, homeownership rates vary significantly by race, with 44% of white households owning homes, compared to about 30% of Black or Asian and Pacific Islander households and 17% of Latino or Hispanic households.
Molly Bolan is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.