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Boston sees big increase in number of permits for new housing in ’17

Boston added more housing this year than it has any time in the last two decades

The city issued 5,349 permits for new houses, apartments, and condominiums in 2017, the Walsh Administration announced Friday, the most on record dating back to the 1990s and nearly 17 percent more than the previous high set in 2015. The surge comes several years into a building boom that has pushed more new development into more neighborhoods in the city, and despite a slight moderation in the price of new, high-end units.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh has made adding housing in what is one of the nation’s costliest cities a top priority, with a goal of building 53,000 new units by 2030. At this point, the city is running ahead of that pace.


“While our population is growing faster than ever, we have been working to meet the housing demands of our growing city,” Walsh said in a statement. “I believe that Boston’s growth must benefit everyone who lives here, and I’m proud that we are building housing for a range of incomes.”

One persistent criticism of Walsh’s housing push is that much of the new construction is relatively expensive, aimed at affluent renters, while residents of traditionally working-class neighborhoods such as East Boston and Roxbury worry they’re being priced out of the city.

In Friday’s announcement, Walsh was quick to point out that nearly one in five units permitted this year — 1,009 units — have restrictions on them that limit their prices to what lower- and middle-income residents can afford. In late 2015, the city strengthened rules that require market-rate developments to include affordable units in their projects, or fund their construction elsewhere — and those higher goals are bearing fruit.

“While housing affordability challenges remain daunting, the city’s strategy of leveraging both public resources and private market forces to create housing for a wide range of incomes is working,” said Joe Kriesberg, president of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, in a statement.


And even more housing is coming. A number of large projects are permitted and set to break ground in 2018 in neighborhoods from South Boston to Jamaica Plain to Brighton. Meanwhile the Baker administration and a number of the inner-ring suburbs recently launched a push to add more housing in communities surrounding Boston, which housing advocates say should take some of the pressure off rents across the region.

Tim Logan can be reached at timothy.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.