Boston’s Residential Development

Image from Jim Newman, USGBC MA Chapter Newsletter

Image from Jim Newman, USGBC MA Chapter Newsletter

“The twin factors driving families out of a city like Boston are the high cost of housing and uneven public schools.” –Renee Loth, The Boston Globe (September 28, 2013)

 In a recent piece for The Boston Globe  (see link below), author Renee Loth makes a great point about our city and where residential development should be focused. 

 The number of construction cranes around the city demonstrates how much construction is underway, some of it residential, with much more planned in neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain (where our Studio G offices are located). We were encouraged to learn that Mayor Menino recently issued a call for 30,000 units of housing in Boston by allowing taller structures with smaller units, selling public land to developers at a discount, and using subsidies to spur development of more affordable housing. However, a major obstacle to building enough housing to fit the budgets of most Boston families is the paucity of public funds available to provide much-needed subsidies.  In Boston, private development will generate some affordable housing, typically only 15% of units built.  Linkage funds from major downtown development provide some, but insufficient resources toward affordable housing and community development. 

“For all the development pulsing under Menino’s decree, though, not enough of the new construction is of the three-bedroom residential variety growing families need. Kids want neighborhoods with schools and playgrounds — and other kids. They aren’t going to go trick-or-treating in the Innovation District. That means encouraging density and development in the neighborhoods, where ‘the financials’ aren’t quite so enticing for developers. Forty percent of Boston’s children are concentrated in just two neighborhoods: Dorchester and Roxbury.” –Renee Loth

As I frequently have to tell clients, ‘architecture is the easy part of a project.’  Boston’s architecture community can design great housing—for young professionals, for families, for retiring baby boomers who want an active urban lifestyle.  But Boston’s next Mayor, and the business and development communities, are going to have to get as creative about financing that housing as the design community will be about designing it.

           -Gail Sullivan, Founder & Managing Principal of Studio G Architects

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