Boston to Require Fair Housing Review for New Developments

The Boston Zoning Code is one of the first in the nation to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.

2 minute read

February 23, 2021, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Andrew F. Kazmierski / Shutterstock

Back in December, Boston took steps to become the first large city in the nation to include Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) requirements in its zoning code. The news broke about the city's historic action after a vote by the City Council and an announcement of support by Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

According to the press release from Mayor Walsh's office, the new zoning amendment "will require developers in Boston to take substantial steps to stem displacement and provide further access to housing to those historically discriminated against."

"Boston's draft AFFH identifies over 100 actions under 14 goals across city agencies, including amending the Boston Zoning Code to affirmatively further fair housing," adds the press release. Moreover, the approved amendment to the Boston Zoning Code requires proposed development projects and Planned Development Areas (PDAs) to undergo 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.

An article by Simón Rios provided news coverage of the approved zoning amendment at the time of a Planning Commission vote that preceded the City Council vote. Rios describes the new AFFH requirements in comparison to considerations the city's zoning code has traditionally granted to parking or environmental consequences.

"As part of the new rule, developers would receive a report from the city that includes demographic information of the neighborhood, as well as notes on any 'historical exclusion' of people within that area," reports Rios. "In their proposals, the builders then would be required to respond to those details, as well as present “intervention options” to address any negative housing impacts."

Fast forwarding to February, another article by James Jennings, Kathy Brown, Lincoln Larmond, and Robert Terrell provides insight into the political process that paved the way for this historic moment in Boston planning, in addition to detailing the measures implemented by the zoning amendment.

Thursday, February 18, 2021 in Shelterforce Magazine

Aerial view of Eugene, Oregon at dusk with mountains in background.

Eugene Ends Parking Minimums

In a move that complies with a state law aimed at reducing transportation emissions, Eugene amended its parking rules to eliminate minimum requirements and set maximum parking lot sizes.

December 3, 2023 - NBC 16

Green Paris Texas city limit sign with population.

How Paris, Texas Became a ‘Unicorn’ for Rural Transit

A robust coalition of advocates in the town of 25,000 brought together the funding and resources to launch a popular bus service that some residents see as a mobility lifeline—and a social club.

November 30, 2023 - Texas Monthly

SMall backyard cottage ADU in San Diego, California.

San Diegans at Odds Over ‘Granny Towers’

A provision in the city’s ADU ordinance allows developers to build an essentially unlimited number of units on single-family lots.

November 29, 2023 - CALmatters

Aerial view of downtown Salt Lake City, Utah with snow-capped mountains in background.

How Salt Lake City Maintained a Vibrant Downtown

Unlike other major cities, the Utah capital’s downtown has seen a steady stream of visitors even as demand for office space diminishes.

December 8 - Governing

White modular home being installed on a lot.

Modular Homes Make Housing More Affordable in Chicago

Cheaper and faster to construct, modular homes provide an affordable alternative to traditional new construction for low- and moderate-income residents on Chicago’s South Side.

December 8 - WTTW

Woman bus driver sitting behind wheel of bus wearing long-sleeved shirt and yellow safety vest.

How Inequality Impacts Transit Safety

Transit workers are being assaulted by riders at alarming rates, and inequity may be partly to blame.

December 8 - Streetsblog USA

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

"Rethinking Commuter Rail" podcast & Intercity Bus E-News

Chaddick Institute at DePaul University

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.