In 2000, former Mayor Thomas Menino signed an executive order creating the city’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP). The policy applies to any residential development of 10 or more units seeking zoning relief and requires the equivalent of 13 percent of total housing units to be affordable. The policy also applies to any residential development built on public land or with public financial assistance.

To create new housing, most Boston developers need some form of zoning relief, usually in the form of additional height or density, because the zoning code in most areas of the city has not been updated for decades and allows only small-scale buildings by right. For nearly all developers, then, the IDP policy is technically voluntary but functionally mandatory.

Developers may be asked to provide greater than 13 percent affordability when requesting a Planned Development Area (PDA) zoning change. PDAs are overlay districts that offer considerable zoning flexibility for large-scale, mixed-use developments, similar to Planned Unit Development (PUD) zones in other parts of the country. The new Fenway neighborhood PDA, for example, requires 20 percent affordability.

Developers have the option of building the affordable units within the proposed development, constructing them off-site or paying a “buyout fee.” As of early 2015, the Boston IDP has produced 1,718 affordable units and generated an additional $32.3 million in buyout fees, according to Nick Martin of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Buyout fee revenues are deposited in a city fund that supports affordable housing citywide. A minimum of half of these funds must be spent in neighborhoods where the percentage of affordable housing is less than the citywide average.

Half of affordable units for sale must be affordable for households earning less than 80 percent of median income (AMI) and half for households earning between 80 and 100 percent of AMI. Rental inclusionary units must be affordable for households earning less than 70 percent of AMI. Rental units must remain affordable for 50 years, and for-sale homes must have a 30- to 50-year affordability term.

For More Info:

Phil Cohen, Boston Redevelopment Authority
Email: [email protected]