Boston Squanders Opportunity to Keep Itself Affordable

This, my friends, is exhibit A in why we still need good old-fashioned investigative journalism—and journalists who will not just chase national stories, but sit through and sift through the apparently routine functions of local government bodies that otherwise have little oversight.

The Boston Globe is reporting that the Boston Redevelopment Authority's board has been rubber stamping the recommendations of staff—without noticing that those include “discounts” for politically connected developers on the fees developers are supposed to pay to support affordable housing. Not only that, but the fees they have collected are not all going to affordable housing as designated.

The Globe calculates that what should have been $75 million directed toward building affordable units in the high-rent city, if rules had been applied consistently and funds directed as proposed, has only amounted to $18 million. Ouch.

Boston has some impressive measures intended to foster mixed-income housing, something many other cities haven't yet put in place, but implementation is everything. And sometimes implementation requires someone watching who remembers how it's supposed to work. Kudos to the Globe, and to whoever brought the problem to their attention.

photo of Boston skyline by Chris Devers, CC BY-NC-ND.

Miriam Axel-Lute is CEO/editor-in-chief of Shelterforce. She lives in Albany, New York, and is a proud small-city aficionado.


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