Residents Testify at Boston City Council for more housing at real Boston incomes, to address affordability and displacement crises
At a City Council hearing on June 10, groups from across Boston announced major changes that communities need from the City’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP). In order to ensure that Boston residents of all incomes truly benefit from new housing, especially those with the greatest need who are facing high housing costs and displacement, community members called for the City’s 13% affordability requirement to change to 1/3. Groups also call on the City to change the IDP’s definition of “affordable” to truly match the incomes of Boston residents, working-class people of color, renters, and home-buyers so that families making $25,000 and $50,000 a year are included.
“We need bold steps. The displacement crisis across Boston is changing neighborhoods and causing great harm to low income families and individuals and communities of color. The City’s Inclusionary Development Policy is one of the important tools the City has to help address the affordable housing crisis. The IDP Coalition is asking the City to strengthen that policy,” said Kadineyse Paz, Senior Organizer from the Boston Tenant Coalition, a coalition of tenant, housing, homeless and community groups.
Following an earlier commitment from the Mayor, the BPDA is currently updating the Inclusionary Development Policy, or IDP, the policy that requires affordable units and cash from private developers who obtain zoning variances. Today’s hearing, with the City Council’s Housing Committee, is from 5-8pm and is chaired by Councilor Edwards. Councilors Ed Flynn and Michael Flaherty are co-sponsors.
Karen Chen, Director of the Chinese Progressive Association based in Chinatown, offered testimony. She said, “IDP has been an important program to add affordable housing to different communities. It can be even more effective if we it requires more units from developers and deeper affordability of those units.”
Representatives from groups spanning neighborhoods and representing tenants and homeowners offered testimony about the impact of private development and speaking to need to reform the policy to benefit more of those most impacted by the housing and displacement crisis. Groups announced their demands for stronger requirements reaching lower-income households. In addition, the coalition is also calling for affordable units to be permanently affordable, and to lower the 10-unit threshold so that developers stop building 9-unit projects to avoid contributing to affordability.
“What I see happening in my neighborhood now is that people are getting evicted because the rent is getting really expensive,” said Julio Nuñez, who lives in Egleston and is a member of Keep It 100 for Real Affordable Housing and Racial Justice. “We need more than 13% because 13% is not the percentage of people who need affordable housing. 33% is closer to the need. Developers who refuse to build more affordable housing don’t want to help the community; they just want to build to make money and bring wealthier people to our neighborhoods.”
The current IDP’s rental units are focused on households making “70% Area Median Income” or 70% AMI, based on incomes of households in surrounding cities including Brookline, Newton, and Wellesley. For a household of 4, 70% AMI is $79,300 a year. Community groups shared data that these requirements leave out many Boston residents, especially people of color whose average incomes are much smaller.
The coalition is calling for the IDP to change to include units from 30-70% AMI for rental units, at an average of 40% AMI, and 50-100% AMI for ownership units.
“Leaving out people making less than 70% AMI is ridiculous,” said Amanda Govan, a resident and leader in Reclaim Roxbury. “As long as most jobs are paying below a living wage, there should be lower rents. If you’re a single mom with three kids and you’re making $12 an hour, you can’t afford rent along with utilities, child care, and all your expenses. Affordable housing needs to be based on accurate research on the families in our neighborhoods, including families with young children and families with people with disabilities.”
“What kind of profit are developers trying to make?” she asked. “Are they trying to make it off the backs of your residents, and it doesn’t matter what they have to go without this month just so the rent is paid?”
“You need to change the rules,” said Nuñez. “Otherwise there will be a lot of families in the streets, and the houses that are getting built for the future won’t have families who need housing the most. Everyone should have a home because everyone is equal, including families in Boston who make $50,000 and families at the poverty line. Having a home is a right, not a luxury.”
The IDP Coalition includes Boston Tenant Coalition and 20 neighborhood, housing, and homeless groups: Boston Tenant Coalition, Allston/Brighton CDC, Chinese Progressive Association, Fenway CDC, Right To The City Boston, Mass Affordable Housing Alliance, Keep It