Mayor Walsh Seeks to Expand IDP Program, Housing Activists Seek More

As the fight to quell Boston’s housing displacement continues, city officials plan to expand their Inclusionary Development Policy, which currently mandates the majority of housing developers to aid in the construction of affordable, income-restricted units.

The Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) states that private housing developers must either make 13 percent of units in their new buildings affordable or put money into Boston’s affordable housing fund. As a result, nearly 2,600 affordable housing units have been created since the program was first implemented in 2000. According to a report released by Mayor Marty Walsh, 21 percent (546 units) of them were built in 2018 alone.

“The Inclusionary Development Policy is one of our many tools for creating moderate and middle-income housing, and our latest report is a testament to its impact across Boston’s neighborhoods,” Mayor Walsh said. Looking to keep up this momentum, the Mayor’s Office expressed a desire to revise the IDP by the end of the year so that more developers would fall under its mandated contribution. “In order to maintain a strong middle class and be a thriving, diverse city, we must continue to create and preserve housing for individuals and families at a range of income-levels.”

The IDP report also delves into where in the city these affordable units have been constructed. The vast majority popped up in Downtown and South Boston.

“In total, 57 percent of IDP Units can be found in central Boston neighborhoods, stretching from the North End to the South End, and from the Seaport to the Fenway,” the report states.

Another notable section of construction was outside of North Station, where The Beverly — a completely income-restricted, 239-unit complex — was erected.

“Since the City of Boston has few available parcels in these neighborhoods, and land prices are out of reach of affordable housing developers, the IDP is a critical tool in creating income restricted housing in downtown neighborhoods, and assuring that households with a range of incomes can continue to live in the center of the city,” the report further explains.

The IDP is not without its critiques, however; advocates for housing justice have called out the program’s focus on middle-income rather than low-income renters and owners. Kadineyse Paz, Senior Organizer for the Boston Tenant Coalition, dug in to the report’s data to highlight this disparity.

“The question is: how deeply affordable are these units? The majority of incomes represented… are higher than what most people in Boston are making,” Paz said.  “Most of the money is going towards [units for people] above 50 percent of the [Area MEdian Income].”

The Area Median Income (AMI), for Boston families is over $100,000 annually. With the majority of these affordable units geared towards families and households who make well over $50,000 a year, half of the city’s residents — those earning $35,000 a year or less — are still without access.

“Folks that need this housing the most are not getting the resources they need to stay in the city.”

Opponents of the IDP’s potential expansion say that increasing its reach could scare developers away from Boston, creating a chilling effect that would result in a stagnated market. But advocates for the IDP say this won’t happen.

“Developers can do more if it’s required of them, and that can be a hard pill for them to swallow because… it would get in the way of getting as much profit as they can,” Kadineyse Paz said. “If we’re slowing down luxury, then so be it.”

Zach Mobrice is a contributor of Spare Change News and a wage-worker in the city of Boston. He is a journalism graduate of Roger Williams University.

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