During her “State of the City” address in January, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced plans to offer 150 vacant lots across the city to developers for free if they agree to use them for affordable housing. She gave an update on that project Sunday.
Bids on the first 27 of those lots will come back to the city in June, Wu said during an appearance on WCVB’s “On the Record.” City officials will then review those bids and make more of the lots available to bidders in batches.
“Housing is the top challenge across every part of our city, I would say even across our commonwealth,” Wu told WCVB. “People are getting priced out and we have to do everything possible right now. So we’re trying to create more housing, we’re trying to stabilize people in their homes, we’re trying to boost home ownership and help people who are renting become homeowners with supports, and we’re looking at every inch of city land.”
Wu went on to say that the city is not building enough new housing at the moment. Her administration is working to both elicit proposals from local builders and to speed up the processes behind development.
“I signed an executive order last year to cut in half the amount of time that it takes affordable housing proposals to get reviewed and to streamline some of the ways that departments coordinate on that,” she said.
Officials have seen the results of that so far, she said. Her focus is aligning zoning codes, internal processes, development approvals, and community involvement to keep pace.
Last week, Gov. Maura Healey named former Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus as the state’s first Housing Secretary in more than 30 years. Wu said she has not had the chance to meet with him yet, but welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with Augustus.
“I’m excited that there’s a point of focus there,” she told WCVB. “We’ve had a lot of success and great partnership with the various state officials already in place there, and we work hand in hand with them on everything from trying to tackle and address homelessness all the way up to ‘what does it look like to think about zoning collectively across the state?’”
During her 2021 mayoral campaign, Wu heavily emphasized her desire to introduce a form of rent control to Boston. In February, she filed a plan that would set annual maximum allowable rent increases based on changes to the consumer price index.
In March, City Council voted 11-2 to pass the home rule petition, sending it to state lawmakers. It would need their approval as well as that of Gov. Healey to become law.