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Walsh says Boston mostly on track to hit 2030 housing goals

”For it being so early, the numbers are good,” the mayor said.
”For it being so early, the numbers are good,” the mayor said.(Globe Staff/File 2014)

It’s early going, but a report released by Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Wednesday shows that, so far, Boston is on track to hit ambitious goals he set to build more affordable housing in the city.

Between January 2011 and March of this year, the city issued permits for more than 13,000 new apartments, condos, and homes, according to the report, surpassing the goal of 10,200 Walsh had set for that period.

But much of that new housing — 60 percent — has been out of reach for most middle-income households, roughly those with incomes below $100,000. And only 1,538 of the units permitted since 2011 were affordable for low-income households, a total that nonetheless exceeded the city’s modest goal of building 1,256 such units during that period.

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“The housing plan is a response to a lot of the high-end housing being built in the Seaport and Downtown Crossing and other areas,” Walsh said at a briefing with reporters. “For it being so early, the numbers are good. We have a ways to go to do better, but I think we’re doing OK where we are.”

The report is the first in what officials say will be a series of quarterly updates on Walsh’s efforts to get 53,000 residential units built across Boston by 2030. That goal and a number of other benchmarks are spelled out in a comprehensive plan to increase the city’s housing stock released by the Walsh administration last October in response to skyrocketing rents and a growing population.

Since 2011, developers have received permits to construct more than 1,000 units of housing reserved for Bostonians with middle-class incomes, exceeding the target of 850.

“We’re starting to see less permits pulled for very high-end units and starting to see developers pull permits for more moderately priced housing,” said Sheila Dillon, director of the Department of Neighborhood Development.

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But the city fell 20 percent short of its goal to permit 3,400 units of market-rate housing that middle-class residents could afford.

One hope of the 2030 housing plan is to move more college students into campus dormitories and out of residential neighborhoods, where some live in unsafe or overcrowded apartments. Decreasing the number of students living off campus would free up those apartments for families.

The initial data suggest this may be a significant challenge: Planners had hoped the city would have authorized 3,400 new undergraduate beds between 2011 and this March; only 1,983 beds were actually permitted.

However, the Boston Redevelopment Authority recently approved a 540-bed dorm at Boston College that was not counted toward the total. And officials said they are currently in “deep conversations” with two colleges that would share a new dormitory, potentially demonstrating a new model for student housing.

“We do have this potential marriage of a smaller college or university . . . and one of the bigger universities that desperately needs beds,” said BRA director Brian Golden,who declined to name the universities because negotiations are ongoing.

“It’s a win-win for both universities and especially for the neighborhood that will see undergrads pulled out of the housing stock.”

Walsh said the city was also open to universities partnering with private developers.

Future housing reports will look at one quarter’s worth of data at a time, but the initial report released Wednesday analyzed housing numbers stretching back to January 2011, the benchmark for the Boston 2030 goals.

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Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielAdams86.