Boston and housing

Mayor Menino has a new plan to build more housing:

Mayor Thomas M. Menino is proposing to reach his ambitious goal of building 30,000 homes in Boston by allowing taller structures with smaller units, selling public land to developers at a discount, and using subsidies to spur development of more affordable housing, according to a blueprint to be released Monday.

The plan, which calls for $16.5 billion in public and private investment, begins with a series of quick steps that could significantly alter the housing landscape before Menino’s term ends in four months. Those steps include selling large chunks of city property, increasing fees on developers to help fund affordable housing, and approving some of the 3,600 housing units awaiting city permits.

First, given the national and state situation, this isn’t bad. But a few notes (the percentage of ‘affordable’ housing in all lthe neighborhoods is here):

Although 25,000 of the new units would be priced at market rates, Menino is proposing to increase subsidies and other assistance to make homes more affordable to middle-income households. About 26 percent of Boston’s households are classified as middle-income — below the national average of 30 percent — and the city’s housing costs are rising much faster than incomes.

In South Boston, once filled with moderately priced homes, only 7 percent of the units sold in a recent 18-month period would be considered affordable to a two-person household earning the area’s median income of $75,500 a year.

Notice a bit of sleight of hand here–26% of households are middle-income but , of course, 50% are below the median income. Now note that this plan is building one sixth of the housing (5 out of 30 thousand) for half the population–is this progress?

Also note this:

Getting cooperation from unions and developers to help build below-market-rate housing will be no easy task.

Why exactly will there be a problem with unions? Labor costs haven’t been increasing that much, as the article states, the problems are in terms of the cost of land and material. On the other hand, developers make much more money with luxury housing so they will want to build that if they’re given the choice.

As I said this isn’t too bad considering things like this:

The federal government has drastically cut spending on affordable housing, with Boston losing nearly half its funding for some programs over a decade.

Still, it’s not nearly good enough.

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