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.

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

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