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On December 15, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced a set of proposals to make substantial changes to the City’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) and the commercial Linkage Policy. The announcement also previewed the City’s intent to review proposed changes to the Article 80 permitting process with the goal of implementing clear timelines and predictability for projects.  

Inclusionary Development Policy

The Mayor’s proposed changes to IDP include: Lowering the threshold from 10 to seven units, and, for rental projects, increasing the proportion of the project that is income-restricted from 13% to 20% of the project, while also increasing affordability requirements. Under this increase, 17% of the project will be income restricted at an average of 60% of Area Median Income, and an additional 3% of the project will be offered at market rents and reserved for people with housing vouchers. 

For homeownership projects, on-site IDP requirements will be increased from 13% to 20% in IDP Zone A & B (the top third and middle third of citywide neighborhood median values), while holding affordable requirements at an average of 90% of Area Median Income. 

Advocates and the business community have been assured of a robust public process, and NAIOP will be engaged at every step to examine how the proposed increases could impact the development of desperately needed new housing.

The effective date for the new rules will be determined based on the BPDA Board, Zoning Commission, and City Council approval processes, but according to the announcement, it will not affect any projects currently under review. 

Linkage Policy

The changes to the Linkage Policy include lowering the threshold and exemption from 100,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet, increasing the total linkage fee over two years to $30.78 per square foot for lab space, and to $23.09 for other commercial uses, up from $15.39. Sixteen percent of the fees will support job training and job preparedness programs, while the remaining 84 percent will support the creation and preservation of affordable housing. The increase in the fees will be phased in over two years. Projects with both lab and office space will be considered on a pro-rata basis. 

Further Actions Planned by BPDA

As part of this implementation, it was announced that the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) will launch a process to review proposed changes to Article 80 in order to make it more timely and predictable for projects that meet the City’s goals of resilience to climate change, affordability for residents, and equitable growth across neighborhoods.

Under the new regulatory approach, the BPDA will develop a “scorecard” for projects. Projects that meet these goals may be eligible for streamlined review, focused community engagement, and simplified mitigation and community benefits. Projects which innovate in these three areas “could possibly receive consideration for tax relief and infrastructure support.” According to the Wu Administration, the reforms will also create new, predictable regulatory milestones for Article 80 review. These changes will be studied and canvassed with the community in the first quarter of 2023 with implementation targeted for the new fiscal year. Aspects of the changes, such as the scorecard, will be offered for public comment and discussion.

The BPDA is also examining other changes to the Article 80 process that will make development review more timely, predictable, and transparent. The changes also include operational and procedural changes to the Boston Civic and Design Commission (BCDC).

Next Steps

In the months to come, the BPDA and the Mayor’s Office of Housing will manage a public process that includes public hearings and a public comment period on each policy, before submitting recommended zoning amendment language to the BPDA Board, for an initial vote on each policy.

For the proposed Linkage Policy, the Zoning Commission will then take up the proposed zoning amendment.

For the proposed IDP, the BPDA vote would be followed by a City Council review and vote, followed by a vote of the Zoning Commission.

Additionally, the BPDA is hosting a website for both the IDP and the Linkage Policy that includes draft and/or final studies, housing and housing market data, background information on each policy, and announcements about upcoming public hearings.

The first Linkage hearing will be on January 11; while the first public meeting for IDP will be held on January 21. More details to come.

NAIOP has been engaged with the Mayor’s Office of Housing, the BPDA, and other policymakers in the City for many months on these topics, and will continue to advocate for policies that will incentivize, rather than slow or stall, the desperately needed production of new housing in Boston. If you have questions regarding these, or other topics, please feel free to reach out to NAIOP’s CEO Tamara Small or NAIOP’s Vice President of Policy and Public Affairs, Anastasia Nicolaou

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