In her latest move to chip away at the city’s housing crisis, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is committing $40 million to create or preserve 718 affordable units across the city, she announced during a news conference Tuesday morning.
“Housing is a human right,” Wu said. “Housing is health, it is opportunity, and safety, and stability. And it must be the foundation of our recovery from this pandemic.”
The vast majority of affordable units city officials detailed Tuesday morning at the Dewitt Center at Madison Park Village in Roxbury are newly created ones. City officials said 59 units in Uphams Corner are existing homes for which their status as deed-restricted affordable units will be preserved.
New units will be developed and preserved through 14 projects in Jamaica Plan, Dorchester, Chinatown, Hyde Park, and Roxbury. The money will come from the Mayor’s Office of Housing, funds from the Community Preservation Act, and from the Neighborhood Housing Trust, Wu said.
Among the projects being funded: $3.5 million for an 85-unit mixed-income development at 288 Harrison Ave. in Chinatown; $4.8 million to redevelop the Amory Street Public Housing complex in Jamaica Plain into 96 units, 30 parking spots, and a park; and $4.5 million for 63 units of senior housing at B’nai B’rith Housing, of 1201 River St. in Hyde Park.
“These [projects] are years in the making,” said Sheila A. Dillon, Boston’s chief of housing. “And we are very, very excited to invest in them.”
Developers will be required to keep all rental projects permanently affordable through deed restrictions that limit residents’ income to certain percentages of the area’s median income; 10 percent of the units will be reserved for people who were previously homeless. Projects slated for affordable homeownership will be designated as affordable for 50 years, city officials said.
“The amount of money that’s being spent today is very intentional,” state Representative Chynah Tyler said Tuesday. “We are very, very proud to be able to see that these projects will allow for people to be able to afford to stay in Boston, and live in Boston.”
The new funding infusion for affordable housing was made possible in part by more than $20 million in municipal and federal funds administered by city’s housing office, according to Wu’s administration. More than $7 million in funds from the city’s Neighborhood Housing Trust via Boston’s linkage program, which sets a fee on new commercial and lab development to raise money for housing and job training.
Additionally, the Community Preservation Committee has recommended more than $14.6 million for the proposed projects, according to Wu’s office. The City Council still must approve that recommendation.
During last year’s mayoral race, Wu made access to affordable housing a central part of her campaign. She was the only candidate who supported rent control — a policy that would limit annual rent increases in some residential homes. It has been outlawed in Massachusetts since voters narrowly passed a measure prohibiting it in 1994, by a vote of 51 to 49 percent, though voters in communities where rent control existed before the ban, — Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge — were more likely to vote against the prohibition.
Undoing the state ban on rent control would require approval by the Legislature and governor.
In Boston, median rents fell in the early months of the pandemic but have since rebounded to 1 percent above their March 2020 levels.
Monday’s event in Roxbury came days after Wu announced $50 million in funding for improvements to the Mildred C. Hailey Apartments in Jamaica Plain and issued a directive establishing a fair housing agenda, announcing her commitment to housing equity following years of disinvestment from the federal government.
In other news, Wu said Tuesday that Boston’s COVID-19 positivity rate is at about 20 percent.
“We know that our policies are working both in terms of boosting the vaccination rate and seeing case counts come down,” she said.
Wu said her administration has yet to penalize any business that is in violation of the city’s vaccine requirement for certain indoor spaces, adding that Boston is still in “an education phase.”
There is a plan to move toward enforcement of the new rules, which require proof of vaccinations for for indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment establishments, but Wu wouldn’t set a date for when that would be. A provision for a fine exists if businesses are repeatedly not in compliance, according to the mayor.