Team Walsh kicks into high gear

A flurry of notable decisions emanated from the fifth floor of Boston City Hall this week. Taken together, they signal a robust agenda for the Walsh administration as it enters into what could be a competitive election cycle in 2017.

On Tuesday, the mayor’s office offered good news for homeowners in the form of a proposal for an increase to the residential tax exemption. If adopted, there will be a decrease in property taxes in owner-occupied properties to the tune of almost $300 per owner annually. On average, according to the city’s tax collectors, the average bill would drop from $3,533 to $3,234.

This would be the first such relief offered to city homeowners since 2000, that is if it passes muster with city councillors, who are almost certain to approve it.

The property tax announcement came on the heels of what will certainly be a more controversial proposal to offer additional safeguards to tenants at risk of eviction from landlords.

The Jim Brooks Stabilization Act, named for a Roxbury activist who died last April, would set specific codes regulating how tenants are evicted by property owners who have less than seven units in their portfolios. The measure is a home rule petition that will need approval of both the city council and state lawmakers to take effect. Walsh says that it will give the city an essential tool kit to employ in the “anti-displacement” campaign it launched earlier this year.

“It’s critical that we strike a good balance between protecting tenants’ rights and supporting them during challenging times, and recognizing the important role landlords play in the development and growth of our city,” the mayor said in a statement announcing the proposal.

A key element of the measure is a requirement that landlords with large holdings provide the city’s Office of Housing Stability with a copy of any notice to quit or non-renewal letter within two days of notifying the tenant. Walsh says that will trigger a city-led effort to inform the tenants of their rights in challenging the eviction.

Predictably, tenant advocates greeted the proposal with measured praise while real estate industry groups were hardly pleased. One consequence, they warned, is that it could become harder to move along troubled tenants. That’s a legitimate quality of life issue that should be hashed out in the review of this proposal by the city council. Neighbors should expect that the city will use its agencies to hasten the removal of tenants who are disrupting buildings and whole blocks with their illicit behavior. The Walsh team will need to show that they have tools in place to streamline those properties that are identified as chronic problems in our neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, there was more encouraging news for city consumers: The mayor signed a license that will allow Verizon to begin service in three Boston neighborhoods, Dorchester, Roxbury and West Roxbury. More neighborhoods will follow, according to the mayor’s office, which says that 25,000 homes could be ready to consider the company’s Fios service by year’s end.

And there’s more action to come this week from the Walsh team. Today (Dec. 8), the administration will unveil its Climate Ready Boston report, which will offer updated projections of “climate vulnerability” and recommend “resiliency strategies and roadmap for implementation.”

Watch next week’s Reporter for a full report on what the latest findings could mean for our waterfront communities.

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