Zoning Commission Approves Fair Housing Zoning Amendment

The Boston Zoning Commission on Wednesday unanimously voted to add Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing requirements to Boston’s zoning code, marking the final step in the amendment’s approval process prior to the Mayor’s signature.

The amendment was proposed and championed by Councilor Lydia Edwards.

The zoning amendment, one part of the Walsh Administration’s overall efforts to address discriminatory housing practices, will require developers in Boston to take substantial steps to stem displacement and provide further access to housing to those historically discriminated against. The amendment was unanimously approved by both the Boston Planning & Development (BPDA) Board of Directors and the Boston City Council in December 2020, and will be sent to Mayor Walsh to sign following today’s vote.

“To reverse the exclusionary housing practices of the past that have kept families of color from accessing safe and secure housing and building generational wealth, we must support aggressive new housing policies that promote equity and fairness,” said Mayor Walsh.

“This zoning amendment will codify the work we are doing every day at the BPDA to create better access to safe and affordable housing for Boston’s residents,” said BPDA Director Brian Golden. “In Boston, we are committed to advancing real solutions to solve our most challenging problems, and I am grateful for the work of our staff and many City of Boston colleagues to help us reach this historic milestone.”

With this amendment, the BPDA will require proposed development projects and/or Planned Development Areas (PDAs) undergoing Article 80 review to consider impacts on area residents historically discriminated against so that steps can be taken to reduce those impacts, provide new housing opportunities, and address past histories of exclusion.

Developers will be required to complete both the already-approved Accessibility Checklist, which considers impacts of people with disabilities, in addition to a new AFFH Assessment, guided by a displacement analysis and historical exclusion data that will be provided by the BPDA. 

In order to achieve the goals of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, projects in impacted areas will be required to take additional steps that could include providing an additional percentage of Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) units than required, deepen the affordability of IDP units, provide additional accessible units, provide a higher proportion of family-sized (2+ bedroom) IDP units, provide all IDP units on-site, match the percentage of family-sized units in the surrounding neighborhood or any other option that meets the AFFH goals. Projects will also be required to market IDP units in accordance with an Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing plan to further access to housing.

In addition, the Boston Interagency Fair Housing Development Committee (BIFDC), comprised of representatives from the Boston Housing Authority, Office of Fair Housing and Equity, Department of Neighborhood Development, the Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities, and the BPDA will be created and will meet regularly to review the submitted Assessments and develop a plan for ongoing monitoring of commitments and reporting requirements. 

“For too long, zoning has played a role in causing a lot of harm,” said Councilor Edwards. “With today’s vote, we are taking a historic step toward zoning playing a role in healing. We have come a long way and the real test is not the signing or even passage of this amendment but its implementation.” 

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