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BPDA approves pilot program for Additional Dwelling Units

Oct 13, 2017

The Boston Planning & Development Agency Board of Directors has approved a pilot program to allow owner occupants to carve out space within their home to create smaller, independent rental units, known as an Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs).  In accordance with Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s Housing A Changing City and Imagine Boston 2030, ADUs will increase affordable housing options, create safer living arrangements and support multigenerational family arrangements and opportunities for aging in place so homeowners can remain in their homes. ADUs provide an opportunity to use existing infrastructure to achieve the City’s housing goals.

“We must be innovative and think creatively in order to accomplish our goals of providing more affordable housing options for those that want to live here,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “Additional Dwelling Units are an important component in our efforts to create additional housing for our growing population while ensuring that our residents have the opportunity to stay in their homes.”

The pilot program will allow ADUs in the Jamaica Plain, Greater Mattapan and East Boston Neighborhood Districts. 

An ADU is one self-contained, non-transient residential living unit providing complete independent living facilities incorporated entirely within the footprint of the existing, owner occupied residential structure. The residential structure cannot contain more than three dwelling units. 

The pilot program will also provide additional resources to support homeowners interested in building an ADU, including:
  • An online toolkit will support homeowners with information about applying for a permit, identifying the cost of building a unit and explaining the type of ADUs allowed.
  • A zero interest deferred equity loan up to $30,000 will be available for eligible homeowners through the Boston Home Center.
Under the pilot program, an ADU shall be an allowed use where it may be otherwise conditional or forbidden provided that it is the addition of no more than one dwelling unit to the existing structure, and will be exempt from all provisions of the Boston Zoning Code, provided that the ADU does not involve any bump out, extension or construction to the existing envelope of the structure which results in the addition of Gross Floor Area. The additional unit must be registered in accordance with Ch. 9-1.3 of the City of Boston Rental Registry Ordinance at the time of conversion. The pilot program will last 18 months. 
“Boston’s housing crisis cannot be solved through the creation of new units in bulk alone. The City must also find ways to evolve our 19th century residential fabric to meet the needs of its 21st century occupants,”  said Matthew Littell, Principal, Utile inc. “ADUs can provide the flexibility to support not only a growing population, but a more diverse and vulnerable one.  Allowing homeowners more freedom to adapt their existing homes to changing needs sets the stage for long term preservation of neighborhoods that continue to struggle with the pressures of Boston’s unprecedented growth.”

The pilot program is a joint effort by the Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab at the Department of Neighborhood Development, the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) and the BPDA. The program is expected to be approved by the Boston Zoning Commission in November, and to launch in the following months. 

About Imagine Boston 2030
Shaped by more than 15,000 resident voices, Imagine Boston 2030 is the first citywide plan since 1965. Mayor Walsh released the plan in July of 2017. The final plan can be downloaded at and can be found at all branches of the Boston Public Library.

About Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030
The Walsh administration’s housing plan lays out Boston’s strategy to grow its housing stock responsibly, while preventing displacement and promoting equity and opportunity throughout the city. Driven by data and demographic analysis, the plan calls for the creation of 53,000 new units of housing at a wide range of income and age levels by the year 2030.

About the Housing Innovation Lab
The Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab was facilitated by a collaboration between the Department of Neighborhood Development and the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics, the city’s civic innovation group. The Housing iLAB pilots experiments that offer the potential to improve the quality of life for Boston residents and focuses their work on reducing the cost of housing. To learn more about the Housing Innovation Lab, follow the office on Twitter or visit their website.

About the Disability Housing Task Force 
An important outcome of Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030, was the formation of the Mayor’s Disability Housing Task Force (DHTF). The DHTF held meetings for over two years to look at the need for accessible housing for persons with disabilities under the age of 65. Local stakeholders worked with City officials to formulate a plan to address the unique needs of this population, which totals over 250,000 people in the greater Boston area. The creation of ADU units was a key goal of the DHTF Report, which was released in July, 2017.

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