Real Estate

Boston is building more than 300 homes on vacant lots, Mayor Wu says

The city is using $60 million in federal funding to help make more Bostonians homeowners.

Mayor Michelle Wu
Mayor Michelle Wu Craig F. Walker/Boston Globe

Boston will make 150 parcels of city-owned vacant land open for the development of more than 300 income-restricted homes, Mayor Michelle Wu announced Friday — a $60 million initiative that comes with a grant program aimed at lowering mortgage interest rates for certain prospective home buyers.

The effort, funded with the city’s federal American Rescue Plan Act cash, follows an audit from the Boston Planning and Development Agency of all city-owned property that concluded in June.

Beginning next year, officials will release a request for proposals to developers to build on the first 70 parcels, according to a press release from Wu’s office.

“We know that homeownership — housing affordability — is the number one issue across the city, every generation, every demographic,” Wu said on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio” shortly after a press conference announcing the initiative in Mattapan. “It is the core of who will be able to stay and thrive and work at the the businesses here in Boston. And so our federal dollars are being put to work directly for that.”


Additionally, grants will provide up to $50,000 in direct assistance — including for down payments and closing costs — to first-time home buyers who are income eligible, officials said.

“Investments that both create new affordable homes and provide meaningful financial assistance will allow more families to buy in Boston,” Sheila Dillon, chief of housing, said in a statement. “In the upcoming months, we will be working hard with our partners to make sure that Boston residents learn of, and act on, these important opportunities.”

According to Wu’s office, the Mayor’s Office of Housing will also fund three financial assistance programs for home buyers: The Boston Home Center (BHC) First Time Homebuyer program, the Saving Toward Affordable Sustainable Homeownership (STASH) program, and the ONE+Boston program.

The Boston Housing Authority has also launched the First Home Program, which provides eligible BHA residents with downpayment assistance of up to $75,000 for a home purchased within the city.

“We have families that really want to purchase their own home and can support a mortgage, but need to get over the hurdle of upfront down payment costs,” Kate Bennett, administrator and CEO at the BHA, said in a statement. “Providing homeownership opportunities to BHA public housing and Section 8 residents is a huge win — it means long term stability and opportunity for families here in Boston.”


The city’s homeownership rate, 35 percent, is currently well below the overall 62 percent rate in Massachusetts, according to city officials.

Homeownership rates in Boston are also rife with racial disparity, as 44 percent of Boston’s white households own their home, compared with only 31 percent of Black households, 30 percent of Asian or Pacific Islander households, and 17 percent of Hispanic or Latinx households, Wu’s office said.


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