Mayors across greater Boston team up to tackle housing woes

The Metropolitan Mayors Coalition of Greater Boston on Tuesday announced a partnership to address the regional housing crisis, coinciding with a report showing slow construction progress outside of Boston, even as the greater metro area continues to feel the strain of rapid population and job growth.

Including Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, the coalition is made up of 14 representatives from local cities and towns.

“We’re all here today because we want to be part of the solution,” Walsh said at a press conference with the assembled mayors. Since 2010, the state’s population has ballooned by a quarter of a million people while some 350,000 jobs have been created, the majority concentrated in greater Boston. The city proper is nearing population levels not seen since the 1950s.

“With the success and growth come new challenges,” Walsh said. “One of our biggest challenges facing our communities is housing. In Boston, keeping up with this demand in a smart, sustainable way is our top priority.”

The city is on track to add 53,000 new housing units by 2030, although officials project another 42,000 units will be needed by 2050 and the demand around greater Boston is similarly booming. This issue is regional, the mayors said, and requires that city leaders move outside of their “silos” to plan for the housing health of the broader community.

Over the course of a six-month process, the Metro Mayors Coalition will put together a plan with commitments to increasing the diversity and rate of housing production. The partnership announcement laid out construction priorities — bolstering housing across income types, especially affordable and workforce housing; building out stock in renter and owner-occupied housing, including those geared for families with children; locating the housing near transit and walkable areas; and ensuring design standards are accessible for all ages and abilities.

There are as yet no ballpark figures for housing targets or where development should be focused. A Boston Foundation report last month found that housing production has been overwhelmingly centered in Boston in recent years. Area suburbs, though feeling much of the same demand, have lagged in needed production.

“The crush of applications that we’re seeing is really an indication that there is a lot more that we have to do, that our present mode isn’t sustainable,” Curtatone said.

Efforts to protect residents, like the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act, were highlighted at the press conference. The coalition will include elements to “reduce evictions, eliminate unfair rental practices, mitigate displacement, create permanent housing for the homeless, and ensure safe, stable housing,” as well as “abolish discrimination against both tenants and buyers, and advance fair, equitable access to housing opportunity.”

Along with mayors from Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Melrose, Medford, Newton, Quincy, Revere, and Winthrop, the group has come together in the past to address ongoing climate challenges, pledging in June to uphold the standards of the Paris Climate Accord after the current federal administration announced plans to withdraw the US from the international agreement.

The national conversation is a point of major uncertainty in the housing discussion, as well, Walsh and Curtatone said. The tax bill working its way through Congress could potentially slash grants that support lower income-restricted housing production.

“This is a time when cities and towns and mayors must step up to do the right thing for the people in their communities,” Walsh said. “This is a big, ambitious work, but with this team we will get it done collectively.”

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