Would higher inclusionary development mandates chill Boston's housing boom?

BOSTON — A new report shows it's been one of the best years for affordable housing production in the City of Boston, but local leaders are still looking to revamp the program.

The city is in the middle of a big housing boom and councilors want to make sure low and middle income residents aren’t being left behind.

A new year means a new flock of buildings going up and Mayor Marty Walsh is asking the legislature for more power over zoning laws.

"Just allow us to have the authority to increase linkage to commercial development and look at increasing IDP," Boston Housing and Neighborhood Development Coordinator Sheila Dillon said.

Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) requires housing developers make 13 percent of the units in new buildings affordable; or pay into the city’s affordable housing funds. Linkage refers to the requirements connected to the square footage of the building.

According to the 2018 IDP report relased Tuesday, 546 inclusionary units opened in 2018. That's 21 percent of all the IDP housing created since the program started in 2000.

"This is a requirement from market rate developers and it’s not costing the city or state any money to build these affordable units," Dillon said.

About $137 million in funding has been raised in that time and funds programs like the job training.

"It completley changed my life.” Gerry Tejeda said. ”It’s an excelent opportnity for the city to say, 'you know what? You’re not forgotten citizen. You’re not a marginalzied citizen.' It’s saying if you basically come to us, and you do the work, we will find you a career. Not a job, a career.”

Tejeda says he wemt from being under-employed to having a career at the Ritz-Carlton.

"We never want to chill development," said Dillon. "Our population is growing, we need to build housing. We want to attract jobs. But can we extract more?”

The proposed state legislation doesn't include any base numbers of IDP or linkage requirements. At a hearing on housing development Tuesday, the city council's housing committee chair Lyidia Edwards (East Boston) said that's not good enough.

"One, the city council needs to be at the table, and two, we need to actually say this is the minimum we’re expecting from developers, not say that we just need more power to make a decision later on," Edwards said.

Edwards also wants to see the city's IDP requirement to go up to as much at 20-percent, like in Cambridge or Somerville. NAIOP massachusetts, which represents developers, and the city's housing chief say raising the IDP could scare away builders.

"The fact of the matter is they said this exact thing when we tried to implement linkage, they were no friends to even having linkage period," Councillor Edwards said. "And yet here we are in one of the biggest development booms with linkage. I’m sorry, I don’t see it. I don’t see the chilling effect. This is an opportunity to rise to the ocassion.”

Housing advocates tell Boston 25 News they look forward to being a part of the process as these package of bills head to the legislature.