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Wu would spend bulk of federal Covid-19 money on housing, including pilot to make triple deckers more energy efficient

Mayor Wu today unveiled her first budget for the Boston, for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Included in the proposal are amounts for new projects based on some $350 million in federal Covid-19 relief, including a number aimed at energy efficiency and dealing with climate change:

  • $206 million for housing stability, affordable homeownership and financial assistance to first-generation homebuyers, strategic acquisitions to combat displacement, and deeply-affordable housing creation on City-owned land; a nation-leading pilot to advance energy efficiency in triple deckers and other multi-family homes while maintaining affordability; and upgrades to public housing units across five sites for air quality, energy efficiency, and health;
  • $34 million for economic opportunity and inclusion, to grow BIPOC-owned businesses, further invest in Main Street business districts, expand tuition-free community college and workforce training programs, and create a commercial rental rebate program to support small business recovery and build wealth in Boston neighborhoods;
  • $31.5 million for climate-focused investments, including expanding the Green Youth Jobs program, creating walking and biking infrastructure, growing and preserving our urban tree canopy, strengthening our local food systems, and supporting electrification of the City vehicle and school bus fleet;
  • $20 million for transformative arts and culture investments that will facilitate placemaking and strengthen both downtown and our neighborhood communities;
  • $20 million to ensure an equitable response to the ongoing pandemic by supporting critical COVID-19 vaccination efforts, ongoing testing, community engagement, and continued collaboration with community-based organizations and community health centers;
  • $18 million to tackle behavioral health and substance use disorder challenges;
  • $15 million for investments in Boston’s early education and childcare system, including growing the early educator workforce and streamlining access and enrollment for Boston families; and
  • $5 million for evaluation and equitable administration, to support language access, establish an equity framework, and ensure strong compliance with federal guidelines.

Wu filed details of the proposal with the City Council, which, for the first time, gets a direct say in what the final budget looks like. Previously, the council could reject department budgets, but not make any changes in them.


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Who are the lucky landlords to get the money for their properties so they can make green improvements to the three-decker so they can raise rents even higher?

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It's frustrating how in 2021 Congress passed a $1.9 trillion spending package, and today we have both high inflation and local governments scrambling to figure out what projects to spend the federal dollars on.

Stop printing money.

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Inflation is super complicated and they don't actually print more money. A 2 trillion dollar spending package alone doesn't drive inflation.

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I hope you're not suggesting that this sort of use or lose it money management helps.

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“It depends on how you spend and what you spend on and when you spend.”

Programs like early childhood education might cost a lot upfront but are designed to reap benefits down the road, she added.

“So when government spending increases rapidly, for example, for defense spending, we don’t see inflation go up by very much at all,” he said.

That’s true for other government programs too. But short-term spending is different, according to Chris Sims, professor emeritus at Princeton.
Take those relief checks meant to keep people afloat and prevent a deep recession. “And it succeeded in that. We’re getting a little bit of an overshoot,” Sims said.

That increase in consumer demand affected supply, which affected prices. Low-income families tend to spend more on necessities that are pricier now, like groceries, heat and gas, said Wharton School professor Kent Smetters.
“And so more fiscal stimulus that targets lower-income households will tend to have more impact on inflation going forward,” Smetter said.
But he also pointed out that supply chain constraints and labor shortages are contributing too.

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“So when government spending increases rapidly, for example, for defense spending, we don’t see inflation go up by very much at all,” he said.

unlimited military budget = good

when people who didn’t have money before suddenly have money = bad

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That is correct.

This doesn’t mean I want more military spending. I would prefer a large amount of that money to be invested elsewhere, especially if it benefits the stability of future generations. It can however be argued that strong defense spending is doing just that. It can also be argued that too much spending into defense and not other areas is equally hurting future generations.

But when it comes to inflation, the statements quoted are true.

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off topic

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Energy efficient triple deckers are fine but it'd be nice to see this mayor take any actual step to increase the supply of housing in this city. Her Zoning Board of Appeal is killing new housing left and right and she is letting it happen rather than just appoint new members. At some point, it begs the question of whether or not Mayor Wu actually wants any new housing in Boston or just wants to spend money on feel-good things that don't make a real dent in our housing crisis.

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In Jamaica Plain huge projects are going up everywhere. They don't look very affordable, but thousands of new homes have been added.

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Not nearly fast enough and not at the scale to make a dent.

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... I agree with this analysis. There's straightforward ways to greatly enhance energy efficiency in a triple decker, with results that exceed those achievable in single-family dwellings. That might well have the effect of increasing the appeal of living in higher-density dwellings, and that'll be reflected in current and future development plans.

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a great term paper or final exam answer.
In the 70's and 80's a very simple 15% tax credit resulted in millions of homes adding insulation and storm windows. Keep it simple, and keep local government out of the process, unless you think it's a good idea to have all the work done by locals who went to the right times, "overseen" by hacks who might have a sociology or poly sci degree.

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you can get even more energy efficiency if you're willing to build buildings with more than 9 units. So where's the support for that?

increasing the appeal of living in higher-density dwellings

People are already excited about living in higher-density dwellings - there just aren't enough of them in the area for people to live in them. The reason they're not being built doesn't have anything to do with there being no demand!

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People are already excited about living in higher-density dwellings

As long as its not in THEIR neighborhood.

Cuz you go to enough of these 'community outreach' meetings when a high rise is being built and you'd swear you're asking people to approve a toxic waste dump when a building has more than 3 stories.

And then of course the pivotal.. "but cars, but parking" will kill any movement for this. Cuz you know parking requirements would mean that a toronto style high rise would need to have a huge underground parking garbage to meet 'parking minimums'.

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The ZBA is only supposed to approve a variance request if certain strict conditions hold (basically, if the applicant’s property is unusual in some way and the applicant is getting unreasonably screwed by the zoning laws.) The problem is that the zoning laws are on the whole unreasonably restrictive and basically nobody can build anything without a variance. Instead of fixing the zoning laws, the city government has taken the worst of the pressure off by handing out variances right and left. This creates a situation where everybody now expects a variance, and the whole process is arbitrary and vulnerable to all sorts of abuse. The solution is not for the ZBA to become even more generous in granting variances, but for the zoning laws to be fixed to get us out of the whole variance mill.

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