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Walsh calls for more spending on affordable housing

WGBH provides an overview of Mayor Walsh's annual state-of-the-city address, in which he called for $500 million of new affordable-housing construction and getting Boston a seat on the board that oversees the MBTA.

StreetsblogMass reports he also called on the state to let Boston and surrounding communities add a surcharge to the sales tax to pay for transit improvements.

Walsh also called for closing the gap between a small number of high-performing BPS schools and the rest. The Boston Sun reports Councilor Andrea Campbell says the mayor isn't moving far or fast enough to make this happen.

State of the City 2020 - Read Walsh's speech and watch him deliver it.



$500 million in affordable housing construction?

Is the city directly developing affordable housing now?


That's kind of the BHA's job!

The BHA does low income housing.

Affordable housing is a different program.

John's explanation below seems to be pretty accurate.


Your guess is as good as anyone's given that the city councilors who proposed the new tax haven't really specified what will happen with the money, other than that it will be given to the Boston's Neighborhood Housing Trust Fund. (This is assuming that the mayor's talking about using that money as part of the $100 million in new annual funding he mentioned.)

He also says, later in his speech, that the money would be used to build - or preserve - housing, which he (and the councilors) say, over and over again, so not necessarily new housing.

I think the plan (reading between the lines) would be similar to what is done in the past (and what I think you're guessing would happen), with the city contributing money toward private developers' projects, putting in money to subsidize the costs of building, but not buying land and building on it, itself.

Of note, up until now, the NHTF has been limited to contributing "last dollar in" on developments; meaning, suppose a non-profit wants to build a new affordable housing development and is putting together its financing. It gets money first from government sources (US government, etc.) and some other sources, and then goes to the city for remaining funds it can't find elsewhere. I believe it's limited (by charter; subject to change) in how much it can contribute; something like 10% of a project's cost or something. I'll find it somewhere and update this comment.

PS. The city's website has the names of people who are presumably on the board of NHTF, but every person's appointment has expired. https://www.boston.gov/neighborhood-housing-trust-fund


City of Boston has numerous Municipal Parking lots around in neighborhoods like East Boston, South Boston etc , the money they receive in selling other high valued assets they can use the money to develop on these municipal parking lots and create affordable housing especially in these much needed neighborhoods.


He just exudes zero confidence in everything he says or does.

If developers didn't own this city he'd be sweeping floors at the nearest Local Union Shop.

We CAN do better, Boston.


Upzone the city and stop pretending a highly subsidized lottery is some kind of realistic solution before we become LA and just end up spending $600k per “affordable” unit https://lacontroller.org/audits-and-reports/high-cost-of-homeless-housin...

This isn’t rocket science. The city can change or follow the financial lead of California with the policy equivalent of pissing into the wind.


is going to become the new San Francisco. And that's not good.


Upzoning transportation corridors and eliminating regulatory roadblocks to housing production?


How would lawyers make money without extorting variances for every single project. Think of the got mine NIMBY bigots that don't want anyone new moving into their neighborhoods. The city might build bike lanes or do something about double parking outside Dunkin's!


This is one thing conservatives and liberals agree on out here - increase density so you can develop more freely. One more way we vote for people that refuse to work in OUR best interest.

It would be far better to spend money improving the public transportation system so that everyone is helped instead of spending a tremendous sum on a small number of "affordable" lottery winners.

Housing is a regional problem and it should be addressed by the state, not the city. Massachusetts towns are too geographically small for any one city to make a meaningful improvement.


THIS. expanding ACTUAL transit access out into the first ring of burbs would make a huge impact and open up those to people who require it, and open up the next ring to people who currently only need to be "transit adjacent". There is no way to build enough in the actual city of boston to make a meaningful impact on prices when you have literal teardowns in transit-lacking first rings like dedham and waltham priced over half a million. not to mention the constantly unspoken amount of ecological waste that comes with tearing buildings down to put up new clapboard garbage that's going to require major renovations every 10 years to stay standing.

bring transit to where the houses already are!

You can't blame Walsh on this one. He's powerless. Even in his speech he called for a regional transit authority like WMATA or BART; which would strip power & money from Pollack and shift it to the city/region. There's a new saying at the State House. If it ain't a Pollack Conservation Law Foundation, Pollack doesn't care: RMV, SOGR, DMUs, AFC, etc. Walsh is doing what he can until Baker fires Pollack.


how putting 40 people and their cars on apiece of property that once held a single family house is good for the environment? It doesn't matter if they're yuppies or Section 8.


Yes, a building with 40 residences uses more resources than a single-family home. But a building with 40 residents uses less resources than the 40 single-family homes that would otherwise be required to house all those people.

You realize, I hope, that a bus gets far worse overall mileage than a car, but winds up being far more energy efficient because it requires less fuel in total to move the same number of people as, oh, 70 cars.

City dwellings are, in general, more efficient than an equivalent number of single-family homes. They require less room (which can be turned into parks and green space), are more efficient to heat and cool (if nothing else, less surface area through which to lose heat or cool air, depending on season). And if you build enough of them near each other and other towers housing stores and businesses, you create a walkable "village" in which people might actually use their feet to get around instead of large, fossil-fuel-using vehicles.


Build housing where people dont need cars and you just got rid of 40 cars. That's a pretty good start.


across from Broadway Station with the multistory parking garage that is full to capacity?

What does he mean by "closing the gap between a small number of high-performing BPS schools and the rest?"

Hopefully, that doesn't include lowering the admissions or performance standards at the high-performing schools.. but the cynic in me thinks that is exactly what it means.


Well there you go. There is no other choice. You can't raise up, but you can always - and easily - level down. Leveling down is the standard in the United States.

To your first question, the biggest driver of the opportunity gap is poverty and inequitable funding. A school that serves students with high needs, special needs, students who experience homelessness, students with disabilities, or students learning English needs more resources than a school serving more affluent students. Yet, the schools that privately fundraise large amounts of money on top the BPS budget are often schools that serve more affluent students. BLS, Eliot, and the handful of other majority-white schools in BPS.

As for admissions, I assume you're referring to the three exam schools. We need to be careful equating a test-score with "high standards", as research shows that standardized tests (and certainly the ISEE) do a much better job reflecting a student's family wealth than their actual ability to do the work. See the cottage industry of private ISEE test prep that mostly white families trip over themselves to pay big bucks for. Admission exams aren't actually working as a meritocratic tool.


The top rated schools do have whiter, more affluent kids and those schools do have huge fundraising branches which are not serving the BPS population at large but.... the money which those schools pull out of the general city coffers is the lowest per head out of any school. So there are educational opportunities at BLS, etc... which don't exist at English, etc... (theater, orchestra, etc...) but I think that's more accurate termed as an inequity of opportunity vs. funding if that makes sense? The non-exam schools get many more resources from the city than the exam schools (and they should!)

It's a tricky problem to solve. My feeling is that the issue isn't to remove those resources from the exam schools (as the resources are tied to those schools' communities) but rather figure out how to improve K-6 education across the disadvantaged communities so more kids from those schools can get into the exam schools and underperforming kids currently there get pushed out.

My kid is at an exam school and their opinion is that maybe 20% of the kids at the school had to work to get into the school (at their parents prompting, test prep, etc...) but don't care and can't/won't try to do well. These kids ideally would be elsewhere so some kid who's not larded up with test prep and optimized elementary school teaching can take advantage of the school.

Yes, I think you have the Eliot as a good example of what we expect as a quality K-8 education in a functional and inviting building. It's something all BPS kids should have, regardless of whether they attend a school that is essentially an island demographically. Use that as your measuring stick and use the budget as a tool so that Orchard Gardens has the same opportunities for students.

I will argue that funding = opportunity, because if you can't budget for a theater department in your high school, then you don't have that opportunity for your students, etc. And yes, Weighted Student Funding does provide more funding for students with higher needs, but all anyone needs to do is step foot in Charlestown High and compare the opportunities there vs. those at the exam schools and you know it's not enough.

Boston teachers on average are the third highest paid in the state.
We've seen an outflow of about 2000 students from BPS* in the past three years - yet FTE counts have INCREASED several dozen.
Costs per pupil are up 18% in the past 3 years, save for Cambridge, about the highest in the state among larger districts.
We have seen that the budgets for exam schools per pupil are MUCH lower than the rest of the city.

The question is why on earth isn't this enough - and the follow-up question is how much is enough?

What is the end game here - 100 students, 5000 teachers and a $5 billion budget?

*assumed a 500 student drop for 2019-2020 - consistent with past years - although in 2018-2019 the district lost over 1100 students.

What exactly is "large amounts of money" that these schools are raising? Other than maybe Latin and their endowment accrued over the past 350 odd years, hard to imagine fundraising moving the needle much (and what is it spent on?)

And does BPS allocate $x per student regardless of need? Have to imagine that a school with 20% special needs kids gets more resources than a school with say 10%.

The big outlier is the Eliot, which raises $500-700k a year privately. BAA also funds the majority of its budget through philanthropy. But find any of the whiter schools and you will find significant private $. Lyndon, Kilmer, Warren Prescott, Curly, etc.

Yes, the current weighted student funding provides more money for students with higher needs, because they require extra services and staff. I'd argue that it's not enough, when schools with higher percentages of SWD and ELL are cutting back support staff.

Make a tax, it will just be added onto the selling ask price and just be a burden on the purchaser. Those that can afford, or are willing to take a chance on ownership, will get squeezed.

So the mayor who’s responsible for the largest rent price hikes in history in the city of Boston while building most unaffordable housing in history in the city of Boston now calls for more spending on affordable housing in the city of Boston. LOL


Just for context, I'm a Boston Resident, an owner occupied landlord and property tax payer. I work in an industry that does not require me to be here in Boston.

I thought the Mayor's state of the city speech was alright. It's obvious and clear he has his intentions on higher office and that's fine.

Over the past several years, the city is on a spending spree and they are basically 'nationalizing the housing industry'. The City will become the largest landlord and the largest developer and I'm not sure everyone realizes this.

The spending spree continues (and with lackluster results) across many different needs within the society, not all of which a government is best equipped to tackle.

The biggest question I had listening to Walsh was, "Well great, but where are the incentives to those footing the bill?"

Eventually the donkey's back gets beaten enough and the donkey looks to escape the abuse and walk ... out of city and out of state. And then, Mr. Mayor and Mr and Mrs. City Council; who and where are you going to obtain these fees, surcharges and taxes from?