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Mayor Calls for Housing Boom in Boston; Asks for $21B in Public, Private Work

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said the city needs to build 53,000 units of housing to accommodate a surging population.

Wed October 22, 2014 - Northeast Edition

BOSTON (AP) Boston Mayor Martin Walsh released a housing plan on Oct. 9 calling for $21 billion in public and private construction to meet the city’s housing needs over the next two decades.

Walsh said the city needs to build 53,000 units of housing to accommodate a surging population and to prevent low- and middle-income residents from being priced out of the city. That would bring Boston’s total housing units to 317,976, a roughly 20 percent increase from the 264,908 units the city had in 2010, according to Walsh’s report.

“Boston is growing, and I am committed to making sure that the prosperity Boston is enjoying reaches every neighborhood and every Boston resident,” Walsh said in a statement. “Any person who wants to contribute to making Boston better should be able to live and succeed here — regardless of their income level, race, or physical ability.”

Boston’s population has been recovering in recent years from decades of steady declines. U.S. Census Bureau data suggests Boston is gaining population twice as fast as the rest of the state, according to Walsh’s report. The capital city is expected to grow from about 650,000 residents to more than 700,000 by 2030, a level Boston has not seen since the late 1950s, when families across the country decamped from cities to new suburbs.

With young, highly skilled workers increasingly being drawn to Boston’s science and technology sectors, the report says the city needs to build 44,000 housing units for working-age adults. Another 5,000 units are needed for senior citizens, and 4,000 are needed to help ease housing demand and temper soaring housing prices, the report says.

Walsh’s report suggests the city’s many colleges and universities play a key role in addressing Boston’s housing needs. He wants colleges to create 16,000 new dorm beds for undergraduate students, reducing by about 50 percent the number of those students living off campus and freeing up thousands of apartments for working adults. The move also would prevent students from living in substandard rental units that the city has been trying to crack down on.

Walsh also wants to loosen city zoning restrictions, provide incentives for building taller buildings, encourage developers to build around public transportation hubs and increase city spending on affordable housing from $31 million a year to $51 million.

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