Boston considering 'outside of the box' approach to help create affordable housing

Boston considering 'outside of the box' approach to increase affordable housing stock

BOSTON — As a building boom in Boston changes the city skyline, a unique take on housing that makes city living possible for everyone may be in the works.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh tells Boston 25 News, with federal building funds drying up, that the city is looking "outside of the box" to pay for renovation projects.

"Every major city in America is dealing with this. They're old housing stock and they need to be refurbished and rebuilt," Mayor Walsh said.

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One idea is mixing housing of different economic levels through a public/private partnership.  Through this concept, private developers work with the city to build the mixed housing.

The city gets desperately needed affordable housing, while the developer sells high-end units for profit. The high-end units help pay for the entire project.

The model is currently being used to breathe new life into two of Boston's oldest public housing developments: The Bunker Hill housing development in Charlestown and the Maryellen McCormack development in South Boston. Both were built more than 75 years ago and need significant updating.

"This is a way for the city to bring these units up to code…and then also with the newer units coming in those will help to pay for all the construction," said Boston City Councilor Frank Baker.

The new developments would triple the amount of current units, to include a mix of low, middle and high-priced housing.

Current residents who spoke to Boston 25 News say the like the idea of updated apartments and an economic mix of residents.

"It is needed. For me, we have problems with the building itself and we keep waiting to see if they'll adjust it or fix the problems," one Bunker Hill resident said.

But there are some concerns about how current residents will be displaced during construction, and how they will be reintegrated into the project.

"I don't want to leave. I've been here most of my life. My son is 42-years-old and he was 5 when I moved in here so…. It's home," said South Boston resident Anna Williams.

Councilor Baker says residents will have a say on where they move during construction. The projects will each take 10 years or more to complete.

"I think it's a good thing and I think it's also a wave of the future," Baker said.