Our city does not have enough affordable housing. Families that grew up here cannot afford to stay in their neighborhoods and are being forced to leave the city. As housing costs rise, we are not building the type of housing our city needs. The current housing stock being built is dominated by expensive condominiums that are often purchased by out-of-state investors and do not provide housing for everyday Bostonians.
We have institutional problems with our housing system, including an AMI that does not reflect our city’s true income levels, an endless Boston Housing Authority’s waitlist, and an opaque property tax system that hurts folks on fixed incomes. In addition to high rents and inaccessible housing, our residents and families face nearly insurmountable obstacles to affordable homeownership opportunities.
One of Jon’s top priorities on Beacon Hill has been to increase access to affordable housing. That’s why he was proud to pass the Eviction/Foreclosure Moratorium during COVID, Housing Choice Reform to increase supply, and the expansion of Boston Linkage Fees to create more affordable housing. In addition, Jon helped nonprofits preserve and rehabilitate hundreds of units of affordable housing. Further, Jon has been a steadfast supporter of housing subsidies, voting for a 42% increase in the Massachusetts Rental Vouchers for struggling families. Jon has also co-sponsored tenant protection bills including Right of First Refusal, Right to Counsel, and the HOMES Act.
Now, Jon is running for mayor because he believes that housing is a human right. COVID demonstrated that housing equals health and economic justice, and as mayor, Jon is committed to ensuring that every Boston has access to affordable, safe, and quality housing. As mayor, Jon will:
- Protect, preserve, and expand affordable housing. Boston does not have enough affordable housing and too many people are being priced out of neighborhoods. Although Boston is building thousands of new units, too many of those units are expensive condos or are otherwise inaccessible to the folks who need it most. If we are going to tackle the housing crisis and create truly affordable units, we need to be bold. When it comes to affordable housing, Jon will be the most aggressive proponent of protecting, preserving, and expanding housing. As mayor, Jon will:
- Publicly finance affordable housing projects through the issuance of bonds. Boston can and should leverage its excellent credit rating and low debt service to issue millions of dollars in bonding to publicly finance affordable housing projects. Jon will align these goals to create more transit-oriented and sustainable development.
- Leverage the Faircloth Amendment. The City can leverage the Federal Government’s Faircloth amendment regulation to create 2,500 new affordable units to be funded by the Federal government.
- Improve our Linkage Fee Formula. Jon led on Beacon Hill to pass the Linkage fee legislation that resulted in a 42% increase in linkage fees. Jon believes that we can improve this program by including on-site parking in the total square footage calculation. Right now, parking is not subject to the Linkage Fee formula. As mayor, Jon would ensure that we capture more revenue by including parking. Jon is also committed to raising the Linkage Fee.
- End use of regional Area Median Income (AMI) and recalculate AMI based on Boston incomes. Right now, the AMI formula used to set the price of affordable units takes into account wealthier cities and towns outside of Boston, including Newton, Brookline, and even Wellesley. For all new units built, Jon will shift the use of AMI to Boston Median Income, more accurately reflecting incomes in our city in order to increase access to purchasing income-restricted units.
- Expand public housing opportunities. Jon will provide the resources necessary for the Boston Housing Authority to continue innovative redevelopment strategies for Boston’s oldest and largest public housing developments. During rehabilitation, he will ensure there is no loss of units and there is a net gain of affordable housing units with an explicitly stated ‘Right of Return’ for tenants after redevelopment.
- Partner with Community Development Corporations and Community Land Trusts. Our CDC’s and CLT’s are on the frontlines of equity and affordable housing, providing a proven and successful model of affordable housing development. Jon will fully fund these organizations to continue building affordable housing and provide opportunities to purchase new buildings for conversion to affordable units. Jon believes that a collaborative approach by combining city hall’s resources with the frontline work of our CDC’s/CLT’s will result in more affordable units.
- That includes establishing a Community Land Trust Fund to preserve affordable housing and community priorities in perpetuity.
- Allocating $5 million annually to support CLTs to use creative community-controlled strategies to stabilize our communities.
- Increasing funds and per unit guidelines for the Acquisition Opportunity Program.
- Pairing affordable preservation projects with project-based vouchers.
- Creating a centralized system to document publicly-owned lands for prioritization to Community Land Trusts.
- Increase access to affordable homeownership opportunities. Homeownership is one of the best vehicles to create wealth and address economic and racial justice issues. However, Boston’s real estate market is too prohibitive, too inaccessible, and too expensive for many of our residents. City hall must become an active partner in promoting pathways to homeownership. As mayor, Jon will:
- Create accessible and affordable paths to Homeownership. Jon will invest in and expand first-time home buyer programs by fully funding the One+Boston and STASH programs. Jon believes in using public resources to amplify the buying power of residents to help increase homeownership, break cycles of poverty, and allow residents to remain in the communities they grew up in.
- Use the City of Boston as a mortgage guarantor. Too many Bostonians lack the capital necessary to obtain a mortgage. As mayor, Jon will create a program to allow the city of Boston to be a guarantor of mortgages for our lowest-income residents to help get them into homeownership and to break cycles of poverty.
- Guarantee the Right of First Refusal. Jon will guarantee the First Right of Refusal, a policy that allows tenants to work together to purchase their building should the owner choose to sell.
- Commit to at least 25% of housing production to be homeownership units for incomes less than $100k.
- Protect our renters, prevent evictions, and focus on anti-displacement. Boston currently has strong tenant protections in place, but too many of our tenants and residents continue to suffer unfair treatment by bad landlords and live in buildings not up to code, all while facing continuously rising rents. This paradigm is unsustainable and we must act now to protect our renter class and prevent displacement. As mayor, Jon will:
- Expand the City of Boston housing voucher program to curb high levels of unaffordability that compound homelessness. City Hall should be on the frontlines providing housing subsidies to our most vulnerable residents, ensuring they can find housing and remain housed. This includes working within the Boston Public School system to ensure that school staff have avenues to connect vulnerable families to resources to prevent homelessness.
- Codify the Boston Condo Conversion Law. Jon believes that we need to make the Boston Condo Conversion permanent. Right now, this law exists as emergency legislation that allows cities and towns to opt in. Jon will work with our state partners to allow Boston to codify the Boston Condo Conversion Law and make it permanent. This policy is a powerful tool in our anti-displacement efforts and as mayor, Jon is committed to using it to its full extent to protect our renters.
- Give the Office of Housing Stability the resources it needs to protect tenants. Jon will fully fund and expand the Office of Housing Stability, bringing on new staff and expanding its purview. By building infrastructure and hiring staff, he will help families find affordable housing and prevent evictions by connecting neighbors to legal services and providing information. He will also lead an effort to create an accessible dashboard of social services throughout the city to connect low-income and vulnerable residents to resources such as food banks, legal aid, and city agency branches. Jon will ensure that the Office of Housing Stability proactively connects with tenants facing eviction because too often services are offered when it’s already too late. Lastly, Jon will create a new, culturally competent eviction hotline for residents facing legal or illegal evictions to call.
- Guarantee tenant legal representation in eviction cases. No tenant should be left without legal representation to fight an eviction. As mayor, Jon will guarantee that any tenant facing eviction is afforded free or affordable legal representation through the Office of Housing Stability.
- Create affordable overlay districts. Jon believes in using every tool at the city’s disposal to increase affordability and prevent displacement. Through community processes, Jon is committed to creatively implementing affordable housing overlay districts to ensure that affordability is maintained in perpetuity.
- Homelessness Prevention and Services. Just one destabilizing experience can force a family into homelessness, initiating a vicious cycle that is near impossible to disrupt. We need to be proactive, preemptive, and protective of those facing eviction. As mayor, Jon will:
- Shift our homelessness services model away from traditionally large shelters and toward permanent supportive housing settings in which people get individualized and wraparound support services to address addiction, mental health as well as other social services.
- Homelessness and vulnerable veterans. Boston’s Way Home Program successfully housed over 1,000 homeless veterans. However, the most recent statistics from January 2019 show 917 homeless veterans across the state of Massachusetts. As a veteran, Jon understands the importance of ensuring we take care of our veterans and provide them the resources they need. He will create a targeted grant program for homeless and vulnerable veterans by leveraging city resources and bringing in state and federal aid.
- Increase transparency in property tax assessments. As a former renter and current homeowner, Jon understands the burden that rising property taxes places on our residents. The skyrocketing price of real estate is threatening to squeeze many of our senior citizens on fixed incomes and lower-income homeowners out of their homes. The rising value reflects rising property tax assessments, posing a significant threat to the financial well-being of some of our most vulnerable residents. Jon believes in keeping our homeowners in their homes and will ensure that property tax hikes do not lead to displacement.
- Establish clear and transparent assessment criteria. Jon is committed to reforming the assessment process to bring more transparency to assessing.
- Lengthen the assessment appeal period. Jon will work with legislators on Beacon HIll to extend the property tax assessment abatement period from 30 days to 90 days, allowing ample time for residents to appeal their property tax assessment.
- Increase the resident exemption for seniors 65+. Jon would also increase the resident exemption for seniors 65+ from annual income of $24,834 to $34,000 a year, providing additional relief to our seniors on a fixed income.
- Advocate for state and federal resources. Jon will fiercely advocate for increased state and federal resources, including increased investment in programs such as Section 8 vouchers, MRVP’s, and the creation of new state/federal resources.