BPDA approves 2,647 net units of housing in 2022, with 44 percent designated income-restricted
Jan 04, 2023
*Updated to Reflect Corrected Data*
Upon additional review of the 2022 annual development data, we identified an error in the net residential units that we reported. The BPDA Board approved 3,216 units of housing in new projects in 2022. A data point in the Notice of Project Change (NPC) for the 2017-approved Seaport Square project was inadvertently left out of our calculations. Including all NPCs, the new total net for residential units is 2,647 units. The Seaport Square NPC also produced an increase in net commercial square footage, and job creation – data that was included in the previous report. Following a more in depth review of all of the data from all projects approved in 2022, including NPCs, we made a few additional adjustments in other development data categories.
Highest percentage of income-restricted units approved in the last decade
This year, the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) approved development proposals that resulted in a net increase of 9.1 million square feet of development worth $6.5 billion. This includes a net increase of 2,647 residential units approved for development (3,216 new approvals, 569 reduction from prior year approvals), of which 1,168 or 44 percent, will be income-restricted. This is the highest percentage of income-restricted units approved in the last decade. Development projects approved this year are estimated to generate 8,878 construction jobs and 15,617 permanent jobs. Development projects newly approved in 2022 will generate $40.7 million in Linkage fees to support affordable housing, and $7.5 million in Linkage fees to support job training programs.
The BPDA held approximately 280 agency-sponsored events across every single Boston neighborhood this year, most of which were held virtually. More than 11,500 people are estimated to have participated in these public events. The event that had the highest engagement was Copley Connect which was a 10-day pilot program in partnership with BTD to open Dartmouth Street to pedestrians. BPDA staff engaged with more than 1,000 people during this pilot program over the 10-day period. For all virtual public meetings, the BPDA also included ways to participate via phone to provide accessibility for residents without internet access.
This year, the BPDA also authorized the release of seven Requests for Proposals for BPDA property disposition, representing a total of 145,406 square feet of land offered for productive community use and development. The BPDA also designated six of the Agency’s properties for redevelopment, totaling 250,256 square feet of land. Those designations included Parcel R-1 in Chinatown, which is envisioned to be a mixed-use site comprised of over 100 units of affordable housing and a location for the Chinatown Branch Library, and 20-22 Drydock in the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park, which is proposed to be a life science development with a robust lab training facility.
Mayor Wu hires new Chief of Planning to direct BPDA, as well as a new Deputy Chief of Urban Design
The BPDA Board of Directors approved Mayor Michelle Wu’s Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison to serve as Director of the BPDA in May of 2022. In his role as Chief of Planning and Director of the BPDA, Chief Jemison coordinates and directs all City plans, land use directives, and all related development policies and processes.
Since beginning this role, Chief Jemison has focused on elevating planning-led development in an effort to create a more resilient, affordable, and equitable city. Under Chief Jemison’s leadership, the BPDA has approved 44 new development projects and 14 Notice of Project Changes, delivering transformative community benefits. The agency has also completed ongoing planning studies, and implemented rezoning to support future growth in areas like the Western Avenue Corridor in Allston. This includes the ongoing transformation of the agency to reform planning and development processes that result in more predictable and transparent public processes.
In addition to Chief Jemison’s hiring, the agency also hired Diana Fernandez as the Deputy Chief of Urban Design in July. Under the leadership of Chief Jemison, Fernandez is elevating the importance of urban design, and champions the transformative power of sustainable and walkable communities for all ages and abilities. In partnership with Chief Jemison and the BPDA’s Urban Design Department, Fernandez is working to strategically transform existing BPDA urban design processes to promote predictability and quality for both the community members and the development industry.
The agency has made more than 50 new hires in the past year, across planning, development review, human resources, and several other departments.
Boston recognized by Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2020
Boston has been honored as a Special Mention for the 2020 World City Prize, based on the City’s holistic work on climate resilience, improving housing affordability and mobility options, and fostering civic participation. Boston’s submission was led by the BPDA, which hosted the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize nominating committee for a visit in 2019 with City of Boston agencies, non-profit organizations, institutions, business leaders, and community stakeholders.
The committee called Boston a visionary city where close partnership and trust is delivering significant results. The committee noted Boston’s foresight in climate resilience, and urged other waterfront cities to take a similar, proactive approach to tackle climate change.
Boston was the only U.S. city recognized in the 2020 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize awards cycle. The World City Prize was awarded to Vienna, Austria. Boston joined Antwerp, Belgium, and Lisbon, Portugal with Special Mentions. The 2020 awards cycle was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
BPDA adopts decarbonization strategy for all agency property
The BPDA adopted a new decarbonization strategy to achieve zero net carbon emissions at all BPDA-owned properties. Through this work, the BPDA has laid out strategies that work with the various types of real estate assets in the agency’s portfolio. The BPDA has begun initial steps to execute on this strategy, including engaging with its tenants, initiating energy audits, and exploring a solar energy generation program on BPDA-owned land. The BPDA will track results of the strategies identified and continue to work with other City departments to make adjustments to the policy as needed.
City of Boston completes city-wide land audit
The Public Land for Public Good: Citywide Land Audit of all city-owned property was completed in June. This report is the culmination of an effort to comprehensively inventory all City-owned property, identify vacant and underutilized properties, and set in motion accelerated efforts to best utilize this property to serve Boston’s communities, particularly through the development of affordable housing.
The audit found that a significant number of vacant and underutilized parcels are already in the pipeline to be developed as affordable housing or preserved as open space, but the City’s land portfolio, as identified through the audit, does include high-opportunity sites that have not yet been initiated for community-oriented development.
The BPDA and the Mayor’s Office of Housing will use both the report and the ongoing PLAN: Charlestown neighborhood planning process to accelerate community visioning for the Austin Street parking lots adjacent to Bunker Hill Community College. This process will analyze the opportunities to build transit-oriented affordable housing and meet other neighborhood needs identified by the neighborhood and stakeholders in PLAN: Charlestown.
BPDA institutes new DEI in Development policy
The BPDA adopted a new policy in August introducing diversity, equity and inclusion into the filing process for large projects in the City of Boston. The DEI in Development policy was approved by the BPDA Board at their August meeting. The policy calls on development proponents to disclose diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plans for large projects when they are filed with the BPDA through Article 80. The agency believes this policy is the first of its kind in the country.
Applicants filing large projects are now requested to submit plans to include economic participation, employment, and management roles for people of color, women, and certified Minority and Women Owned (M/WBE) Businesses within the scope of their project. The BPDA will collect these plans for informational purposes to understand disparities in the real estate market, increase M/WBE participation over time, and evaluate strategies to drive greater impact.
BPDA releases Life Sciences Action Agenda
The BPDA released a Life Sciences Action Agenda in November in response to ongoing life sciences development throughout the City of Boston. In an effort to support the industry’s built environment needs, while addressing concerns from the public in relation to the location and design of these developments, the Life Sciences Action Agenda provides transparency around how the BPDA will take a coordinated approach to guiding life sciences development.
The BPDA is committed to continuing to leverage new investment in this industry to support equitable economic opportunities for Boston residents to encourage job creation and the growth of a resilient economy, as well as prioritizing more housing options to support this growth.
Through the Life Sciences Action Agenda, the BPDA will shape life science development using new design guidelines and zoning language, and support public health and safety in partnership with our sister agencies. Draft Life Sciences Design Guidelines will be released for public review in 2023. The agency will ensure the built environment and any other aspects within agency jurisdiction do not contribute to any health and safety concerns. In addition to these commitments, the BPDA will also continue to integrate appropriate planning for life sciences developments in ongoing planning initiatives, which will then be incorporated into zoning.
Mayor Wu announces strategy for inclusive growth by increasing funds for affordable housing and speeding up development approvals, as well streamlining the approval process for affordable housing
In October, Mayor Wu signed an executive order aimed at speeding up the production of affordable housing by streamlining the BPDA’s approval process. The order directs the BPDA to recommend reforms to the Article 80 process of the Boston Zoning Code, and to propose changes to the Zoning Code more broadly, to establish an alternative path for the review and approval of projects that develop at least 60 percent income restricted units. The new process will continue to include a robust community engagement process and thorough agency review, and also establishes clear and accelerated timelines for the various departments and agencies involved in the Article 80 process. The BPDA has been working closely with the Mayor's Office of Housing on meeting the requirements and deadlines set out in the executive order, and has broad support across City agencies for cutting the timeline for approvals in half. Initial results of that work will be ready early in 2023, with the Article 80 and Zoning reforms due to the Mayor in February.
In addition, Mayor Wu announced a set of proposals in December to make substantial changes to the Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) and the commercial Linkage Policy that will enable Boston to support its growing population and ensure the city is a place where families of all income levels can afford to live. These changes will increase Boston’s supply of affordable housing while maintaining the City’s position as an attractive market for real estate development.
The Mayor’s proposed changes to IDP include: lowering the threshold from ten to seven units, and, for rental projects, increasing the proportion of projects that are income-restricted from 13 percent to 20 percent, while also deepening affordability requirements. The new policy gives the option for proponents to dedicate 17 percent of the project as income restricted at an average of 60 percent of Area Median Income, and offer the remaining 3 percent at market rents reserved for people with housing vouchers. Federal Housing Vouchers usually pay a landlord Fair Market Rents at 100 percent of Area Median Income.
For homeownership projects, on-site IDP requirements will be increased from 13 percent to 20 percent 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 percent of Area Median Income. The Mayor is using new authority to incorporate the IDP into zoning, therefore assuring that all developments with seven or more units help to meet Boston’s affordable housing needs.
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. 16 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.
The City 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. 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.
The effective date for the new rules will be determined based on the BPDA Board, Zoning Commission, and City Council approval processes, but it will not affect any projects currently under review.
Neighborhood and Transportation Planning Updates
As part of its ongoing commitment to proactively planning for Boston’s future growth, the BPDA is leading an unprecedented number of planning initiatives. Neighborhood planning studies are moving forward in Mattapan, Charlestown, Downtown, Newmarket and East Boston. The BPDA launched the South Boston Transportation Action Plan (SBTAP) in November, and the Western Avenue Corridor Study and Rezoning (WACRZ) was adopted by the BPDA Board in October.
During the Summer of 2022, PLAN: Charlestown released draft land use scenarios for the future of the historically industrial areas along Rutherford Ave and Sullivan Square. The community provided feedback in response to those draft scenarios over the course of two months. A team of external urban planning consultants are currently working to update a new draft scenario that responds to and incorporates community feedback. Early next year, an updated scenario will be presented to the community, along with needs analysis findings, recommendations, and urban design guidelines for the entire community. The planning team intends to release a draft plan in late spring 2023.
PLAN: East Boston recently released draft zoning recommendations for the “Neighborhood Residential'' areas of East Boston. The BPDA invites community feedback on current draft recommendations. Revised recommendations based on feedback received will be shared with the community in February 2023. Additional future engagement will focus on the neighborhood's waterfront and evolving industrial areas. The BPDA intends to conclude the planning phase of this initiative by August 2023.
PLAN: Mattapan’s vision for the neighborhood’s future is grounded in its past and present as it charts a more equitable future. The comment period for the draft of PLAN: Mattapan ended on December 4, 2022. Now, the planning team is incorporating stakeholder feedback and making final edits to the PLAN. Planners are hoping to bring PLAN: Mattapan to the BPDA Board of Directors for review in early 2023.
PLAN: Newmarket is an ongoing planning initiative working closely with community stakeholders to develop a vision for an equitable industrial neighborhood of the future. PLAN: Newmarket is focused on efficient land use and increasing employment opportunities, and the climate resilience, transportation, and public realm infrastructure needed to achieve those goals. Having completed its work on land use scenarios and public realm, the staff and consultant team are currently working with stakeholders on transportation and climate resilience guidelines. The planning process will be complete in the first half of 2023.
PLAN: Downtown recently relaunched the community planning process that began in 2018 and paused in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The planning study focuses on developing a framework for the preservation, enhancement, and growth of Downtown and Chinatown. The PLAN: Downtown process will include engagement with local stakeholders and community members to examine the effects of the pandemic on each of these goals, and explore new development regulations, including new zoning, to help adapt and strengthen Downtown and Chinatown.
Western Avenue Corridor Study and Rezoning
The BPDA Board this year adopted the Western Avenue Corridor Study and Rezoning (WACRZ). WACRZ was adopted by the BPDA Board in October and approved by the Zoning Commission in November. Developed in consultation with the community over three years, the WACRZ plan provides guidance on land use, urban design and mobility issues along Western Avenue, Telford Street and Everett Street in Lower Allston. Through phasing over time, the WACRZ plan will introduce protected bike lanes and ultimately a Transitway along Western Avenue.
South Boston Transportation Action Plan
The BPDA and the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) announced in November the launch of the South Boston Transportation Action Plan (SBTAP), which will be completed in close partnership with the Disabilities Commission (DC) and Boston Public Works Department (PWD). The BPDA is evaluating the unique transportation challenges in the core of South Boston’s residential neighborhood, and through the South Boston Transportation Action Plan planning and engagement process, will improve transportation access, efficiency, and safety.
Building on the vision and goals in Imagine Boston 2030 and Go Boston 2030, the South Boston Transportation Action Plan will evaluate safety concerns in South Boston and focus the City’s resources on proven strategies and people-first improvements to eliminate serious and fatal traffic crashes in South Boston. The plan will study key transportation connections to and within the South Boston area and recommend improvements that can be implemented immediately, within the next 15 years, and beyond. The recommendations will reflect an understanding of South Boston as it exists currently, as well as the forecasted effects of new development. This Action Plan will develop community-driven mobility improvements and conceptualize future complete streets and transit network improvements to respond to this growth, and allow the neighborhood to reach its full potential.
The BPDA and BTD will release a detailed analysis of the existing multi-modal network and will work to determine the necessary sequencing of improvements to safely meet future mobility needs. Following a future conditions analysis, the South Boston Transportation Action Plan will release recommendations aimed at eliminating serious and fatal traffic crashes, simplifying intersections for all users, and improving the transit network. The recommendations will build upon nearby recent existing planning initiatives including, but not limited to: PLAN: South Boston Dorchester Avenue, South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan, and the South Boston Waterfront Sustainable Transportation Plan.
BPDA and BTD pilot Copley Connect initiative
Over the course of a ten-day period in June, the BPDA in partnership with the Boston Transportation Department (BTD), launched Copley Connect, a pilot program to open Dartmouth Street to pedestrians. During this time, the street was closed off to non-emergency vehicles, and programmed with activities for visitors of all ages to the space between the Boston Public Library and Copley Square Park. The BPDA has committed $200,000 to public realm and wayfinding planning in Copley Square.
There are a number of factors the City and BPDA examined during the pilot initiative including the impact on the surrounding street network and the use of the open street space. This data was tracked and analyzed over the course of the pilot to better inform future planning. During these ten days, staff engaged with more than 1,000 people regarding the pilot and how they think this space should be used moving forward. This pilot initiative presents the opportunity to expand and unify the public realm in Copley Square, and ultimately better connect it to nearby open spaces and transit stations. The data collected during this pilot program will be shared publicly in the beginning of 2023.