On July 26, Mayor Michelle Wu signed an executive order that will make sure zoning requirements are made stronger regarding childcare options in the City.
From the City Hall childcare program’s outdoor play space, Wu made the announcement alongside city officials, councilors, and former Mayor Ray Flynn on Tuesday.
“The work that happens here; the learning, the care, the love, is absolutely amazing,” Wu said of the City Hall childcare program. “I know it prsonally because both of my boys came through this program.”
She added that “we are only here because of the vision and commitment of a mayor who I’ve been proud to follow in the footsteps of.”
Mayor Ray Flynn created the City Hall childcare program in 1989, “at a time when Boston was facing a different set of issues, but also very urgent issues,” Wu said. “The policy that he put in place would require that any new commercial building being built downtown and surrounding downtown area neighborhoods would include childcare…” or offer the resources to provide care in the nearby area.
Wu said that “that decision and that investment” made by Flynn “has changed the lives of hundreds of families” who work for the City of Boston.
Today, there are “still so many working families in Boston who don’t have access to reliable, high-quality childcare,” Wu said, because many work non-traditional hours or just simply do not have child care options in their areas and instead rely on family and friends for care, which is not always consistent.
According to a press release from the City, “Under the existing rules, developers may fulfill their obligations by creating on-site child care programs or causing programs to be created elsewhere in the City. This language has been interpreted as contributing to a fund that supports and enhances child care in Boston. However, the amount of each child care contribution has been subject to negotiation, which creates an opaque process for developers to navigate and allows for inconsistencies in enforcement. Additionally, the original intention of IDF regulations–to create more on-site child care options for downtown workers–may not match families’ preferences for child care arrangements today or meet the high demand for child care in underserved neighborhoods.”
Wu signed an Executive Order on Inclusion of Daycare Facilities that would help “refresh this policy [created by Flynn] and add to it.”
She said that updating guidance to make sure that “zoning requirements are transparent and predictable” will “better enable large developers to invest in our communities and create childcare options for every family in Boston.”
Wu continued, “this order modernizes our zoning language by reflecting the needs of a changing childcare sector, one where families are looking for licensed, high-quality care across all of our neighborhoods” as well as “help create a more transparent, clear process in collaboration with the BPDA and the Office of Early Childhood.
She said that the Office of Early Childhood, led by Kristin McSwain, will be distributing grants “to expand and improve existing providers and create new ones,” as well as invest in environmental justice, energy efficiency, and climate resilience at childcare centers.
This executive order applies to 14 zoning districts “centered around the downtown areas,” but she said the City is also looking “long-term” as well.
She said that the city plans “to look at the underlying zoning code to make sure these provisions match our dynamic development sector while meeting the needs of all of our neighborhoods across the city.”
Devin Quirk, Deputy Chief of Development & Transformation for the BPDA, said in a statement, “The Mayor’s new Executive Order establishes a clear, transparent formula to allow the Boston Planning and Development Agency to work with the Office of Early Childhood and the development community to make sure child care obligations are met and to further leverage Boston’s strong real estate market for the benefit of Bostonians who need our help the most. This is exactly the clear, strategic direction the BPDA needs to provide on development decisions to help ensure a more equitable growth of our city.”
Office Of Early Childhood Director Kristin McSwain said, “Our city is growing and changing, and the need for child care in neighborhoods does not necessarily align with the areas where builders are required to create childcare.This Executive Order gives us the flexibility to create high quality childcare where families and children need it most.”
For more information about the Office of Early Childhood and this executive order, visit boston.gov