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The Boston Globe

Metro

Boston to expand housing by 2020

Plan calls for up to 30,000 new units

The city of Boston plans to add up to 30,000 new housing units by 2020 to meet the needs of a changing population that includes more families moving to the downtown area, Mayor Thomas M. Menino is set to announce on Monday.

In a speech to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a city government watchdog, Menino will unveil the initiative, dubbed Housing Boston 2020, and tout the housing gains of the last decade, according to a draft excerpt of his remarks made available to the Globe.

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“We can literally see the fast speed at which our housing market is growing,” Menino will say , according to the excerpts. “New units are sprouting up across our city and new residents are bringing more vitality to our neighborhoods.”

As part of the plan, the city aims to create more housing for several demographics, including recent college graduates, middle-class families, low-income renters, and seniors.

“We will work with experts inside and outside of government to prepare our city for the housing needs of all of our people, not just some of our people,” Menino will say. “We see progress in so many places.”

The initiative follows a housing push that led to the permitting between 1999 and 2012 of nearly 24,500 new housing units, most of them privately financed and valued at a combined $8.4 billion, according to city figures.

But Menino believes the Hub can do more, his spokeswoman Dot Joyce said.

“The mayor is an advocate of continuing to reinvent how the city does business,” she said. “Housing, as he knows, is very important to the continued vitality of any city, especially one that’s growing at the pace of Boston.”

According to census figures, Boston’s population of 617,594 in 2010 marked the first time it eclipsed the 600,000 mark since the 1970s.

In a report on the new housing plan, the city contends that more workers are choosing to live in Boston, “enjoying de facto transit-oriented development, rather than face suburban commutes,” and more college graduates are sticking around.

But the foreclosure crisis has forced more than 1,200 middle-income families from their homes, and nearly 24,000 low-income-renter households spending over half their earnings on rent could be at risk of homelessness, the report said.

“To stabilize Boston’s high-foreclosure neighborhoods, the city needs to attract and retain new middle-income homeowners” the report states, adding that developers lack incentives to build middle-class housing.

During his State of the City address in January, Menino pledged to make 1 million square feet of city-owned property available for middle-class housing development.

The report on the plan also notes that federal funding for affordable housing has been cut significantly in the last decade, and “Washington is just getting started on budget-cutting.”

The city has plugged the gap with a formula that includes payments from commercial developers and direct budget appropriations. But as part of the 2020 plan, officials will also seek ways to cut building costs for affordable housing.

Another challenge is retaining workers in the 20-34 age bracket, according to the report, which states, “We also need to make sure that we offer communities with the right mix of housing, entertainment, and services to meet the needs of this group.”

As part of the 2020 plan, an advisory panel of leaders from the business and nonprofit sectors will help the city map a strategy for its housing agenda.

“Boston needs to be prepared to meet the needs of a new generation of residents, and to meet the changing needs of its current residents,” the report states.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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