Inclusionary zoning is a powerful tool to combat the region’s housing crisis
Inclusionary zoning, which requires developers to set aside a portion of their units as affordable, is a powerful tool to combat the region’s housing crisis, even with the limitations noted by analysts from Harvard’s Kennedy School (“The problem with using inclusionary zoning to build affordable housing,” Opinion, Feb. 22).
Inclusionary zoning doesn’t pretend to create housing for extremely low-income tenants. It is a market-based tool that creates mixed-income housing without the need for the already-limited resources of public subsidy. In a region as expensive and divided as ours, this is vital. Even the creation of moderately affordable apartments benefits those lower down the income ladder by expanding supply and decreasing competition. As municipalities work to comply with the multifamily zoning requirement under the MBTA Communities law, we must create homes that are accessible to a range of incomes, not just expensive luxury units.
Like any housing policy, inclusionary zoning should respond to local conditions, leveraging as much affordable housing as meets local need while adequately offsetting the cost of doing so in that particular market. Local planners and policy makers understand how to do this. In fact, many localities already provide density bonuses and reduced parking requirements, as the researchers suggest. Everyone must understand the value of a range of housing options and price points and build support for the policies that create them, inclusionary zoning among them.
Chief of housing and neighborhood development
Metropolitan Area Planning Council
There ought to be a way to keep modest housing from being replaced with luxury units
I was so glad to see Lydia Edwards address preservation of existing housing in her Feb. 27 op-ed, “How to repair and rebuild a cracked foundation for housing justice.” As a resident of one of the communities trying to respond responsibly to the new state zoning requirements intended to result in more housing, I feel that there needs to be more focus on how to prevent existing modest housing from being demolished and replaced by luxury units (often unoccupied).
Inclusionary zoning is one small step, which could be strengthened, but penalties for teardowns could be considered.
Mass. needs to create more affordable housing, but HDIP isn’t the answer
A Feb. 24 op-ed implies that a program known as the Housing Development Incentive Program would jump-start thousands of units of affordable housing (“Massachusetts has a plan to increase affordable housing — now it needs the budget”). Just the opposite would be the case, as we found in a new HDIP report from the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.
HDIP is a multimillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy that provides state tax credits and local tax breaks for developers of market-rate and often luxury housing in Gateway Cities. As families face soaring rents, HDIP subsidizes housing that usually demands high rents that are out of reach for most hard-working Massachusetts families. For example, a two-bedroom apartment in an HDIP-financed building — with $3 million in taxpayer credits — is currently renting for $5,428. HDIP does not benefit local residents with lower incomes or, in many cases, even moderate incomes. Current proposals to expand HDIP by hundreds of millions of dollars will not solve the housing crisis in Massachusetts.
What the Commonwealth needs are investments in truly affordable housing. Senators James Eldridge and Sal DiDomenico and Representative Peter Capano have filed bills to reform HDIP as a mixed-income program that would meaningfully increase affordable housing. These measures should be supported. If Massachusetts aims to be competitive and stay that way, we need to address our housing affordability crisis in a way that promotes equitable development, and HDIP, as currently structured, is not the answer.
Senior housing attorney and Access to Justice fellow
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Given excessive real estate profits, is it any wonder rent control is on the table?
It is no surprise that the Greater Boston Real Estate Board will spend a ton of cash to oppose rent control (“Real estate industry fights back on rent control: $400,000 digital, mail blitz targets Wu’s proposal,” Page A1, Feb. 22). But the industry need only look at its own behavior in recent years to understand why Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is making this proposal.
Price controls are necessary only when actors in markets show a lack of restraint and concern for the communities in which they do business. Excessive profits in real estate are widely acknowledged. The increasingly high cost of housing has contributed to the dire problems of homelessness and to financial distress for many hard-working households of moderate income.
When the social compact involving respect and decency toward one’s neighbors breaks down, government must step in and protect constituents who lack the power to protect themselves.