Real Estate News

What to know about Boston’s new diversity and equity rules for developers

“This new policy is about ensuring success is spread across our communities, while incentivizing sustainable growth and creating more transparent processes.”

Arthur Jemison, the new BPDA Director and Chief of Planing for the city speaking to media Aug. 11. David L Ryan/Globe Staff

Thanks to the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s new diversity, equity and inclusion policy, developers of certain projects will have to get specific about their plans for fostering participation by women and monitories before they put a shovel in the ground.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency, or BPDA, will use the information collected to “understand how developers are advancing diversity, equity and inclusion,” according to a BPDA release.

The new policy, which took effect Aug. 11 and builds on a previous DEI policy, applies to large projects, planned development areas, and institutional master plans filed with the BPDA through Article 80.

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In the disclosure for such a project, the developers should explain their plans to include “economic participation, employment, and management roles” by people of color, women and minority- and women-owned businesses. 

By collecting all the disclosures, the agency will have information it plans to use to better understand disparities still present in the real estate market, increase participation from minority- and women-owned businesses, and to evaluate strategies to drive equitable inclusion. 

“Our residents, developers and businesses all want the same thing: we want to see Boston thriving and growing sustainably, and connect opportunity to all of our residents, in particular our young people,” Mayor Michelle Wu said in a Aug. 11 BPDA update. “This new policy is about ensuring [that] success is spread across our communities, while incentivizing sustainable growth and creating more transparent processes.”

While the disclosure can be written in narrative form, it should explain how the commitments are “realistic, executable, and impactful,” according to BPDA.

“The narrative should go beyond aspirational statements to include a level of specificity sufficient to understand the scope of the equitable inclusion commitments and how they relate to the project as a whole.

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“Development can be a catalyst to not only bring positive investment to our neighborhoods, create good jobs and affordable housing at a range of levels, but also bring opportunities to build wealth for those who have historically been left out of Boston’s building boom,” Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison said in a BPDA release. “Building a Boston that is equitable, and representative of the people living here is important to our agency, and we believe this policy will begin to get us there.”

The DEI Plan Disclosure’s submitted should go beyond exploring just one phase of development. According to BPDA, it should address all phases, including but not limited to, pre-development, construction and ongoing operations. 

The disclosure goes farther than just listing the minority- and women-owned businesses involved — the agency is also asking developers to list the following: 

  • Detailed information about the minority- or women-owned businesses involvement in each phase of development. 
  • The developer’s strategies for supplier diversity and outreach to minority- and women-owned businesses 
  • Strategies for sustainable capacity development at the businesses, such as mentor-protege relationships
  • The strategy to support workforce training for underrepresented populations in the construction and real estate fields 
  • A description of the development team’s prior track record with similar DEI programs 
  • Any other relevant information.

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