Mayor Wu delivers her 2024 State of the City Address, outlining her vision of Boston as a home for every generation
Jan 09, 2024
Mayor Wu announces City investments and partnerships with leading institutions to connect every resident to housing and opportunity
BOSTON - Tuesday, January 9, 2024 - Mayor Michelle Wu today delivered her 2024 State of the City Address, sharing a vision for Boston where every resident feels at home. She highlighted new initiatives to house families, expand homeownership, and plan for a green and growing City. She outlined partnerships with employers, higher education, and cultural institutions that will transform public schools and BPS athletics, invest in Franklin Park, and expand opportunities for students and families from pre-K to college, including summer jobs and unprecedented access to spaces for learning and curiosity. This is Mayor Wu’s second State of the City Address.
“Time and again, we have proven the future is ours to shape. And day by day, we’re following through on Boston’s promise to be a green and growing City for everyone,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “As a mom—and a BPS parent—I know that to truly be the best City for every family, we have to give our young people the world: in the classroom, in community, in every corner of our City.”
Building Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in Boston
Mayor Wu announced that the City will eliminate barriers to building ADUs this year by changing zoning to make these small homes as-of-right citywide. The ADU program allows owner occupants to create smaller, independent units inside their homes or in their yards. This initiative aims to expand lower-cost housing options, empower residents to build wealth, and foster diverse, multi-generational living spaces. The City will lower ADU costs by publishing pre-approved designs and dedicate financial resources to assist eligible residents in funding construction. Training and incentives will be offered to ensure that local builders reflecting the diversity and talent of our communities will have access to opportunities in this new industry.
“On behalf of pro-housing advocates across the city we applaud Mayor Wu and her administration for working to expand zoning to allow Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to be built as-of-right in neighborhoods across Boston,” said Jesse Kanson-Benanav, Executive Director of Abundant Housing Massachusetts. “Our city has an extreme shortage of affordable homes, and this action will help ensure the City has all the tools at its disposal necessary to tackle this crisis. ADUs are a gentle way to add more homes to our neighborhoods, while ensuring that families stay together by providing housing for grandparents, recent graduates, or loved ones with disabilities. ADU’s provide the flexibility that homeowners need, while providing much-needed rental homes for more of our neighbors.”
Revitalizing and decarbonizing Boston’s public housing
Mayor Wu announced plans to identify locations for nearly 3,000 new, modern, energy-efficient public housing units that will be built over the next decade, the first new net public housing units built in Boston in more than 40 years. Once built, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide more than $100 million a year to finance and maintain these homes under the Faircloth Amendment. Boston built 4,000 new units of public housing in the 1940s; 5,000 units throughout the 1950s; 1,200 in the 1960s; 2,200 in the 1970s; but has not built any net new public housing units in the last four decades, only renovations. These new units will feature amenities and supportive services, provide pathways for residents to economic mobility, and ensure that seniors, veterans, families, and people with disabilities have a place in Boston they are proud to call home. The federal government will fund the ongoing maintenance of up to 2,891 units once built.
“We strongly support the goal of increasing the number of public housing units in Boston,” said Salima Vo, Vietnamese Outreach Coordinator of the Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW). “There is not enough public housing to meet the demand we see every day in our work with low-income families and seniors, who otherwise are at risk of getting rapidly priced out of the neighborhood while waiting years for a public housing unit. The tenants we work with are facing unsustainable rent increases and poor conditions, and they urgently need more stable and affordable housing options to stay in their community. Taking advantage of available federal public housing dollars to keep more Bostonians stably housed, as the Mayor proposes, is the right solution for the primarily Vietnamese-speaking immigrant and refugee population we work with in Fields Corner, and it is a critical step for Boston as a whole.”
Mayor Wu also announced a partnership with National Grid that will launch Boston’s first-ever networked geothermal system, delivering clean, green energy for heating and cooling to 346 families living in the Boston Housing Authority’s Franklin Field community. This partnership represents a significant step toward making Boston’s public housing fossil fuel free, building on a $50 million capital investment
from Mayor Wu and the recent $6.3 million grant from the state to update and decarbonize the Mildred C. Hailey Apartments in Jamaica Plain. During last year’s State of the City address
, Mayor Wu announced plans to end the use of fossil fuel in the City’s public housing and in July 2023 signed an Executive Order
to make all new City of Boston construction and major renovations fossil fuel free. The first municipal construction projects underway following this Executive Order are community centers in Grove Hall and the North End and branch libraries in Fields Corner and Egleston Square.
Preserving existing affordable housing across Boston’s neighborhoods
To protect Boston families from getting displaced when their apartment buildings are sold to private investors, Mayor Wu announced the launch of a fund to acquire apartment buildings and protect renters by making the units permanently affordable through a community trust. This initiative builds on the City’s success working with community partners to keep 114 families across 36 buildings in their homes in East Boston
through the Blue Line Portfolio acquisition in October 2023. The new fund will be used to protect 400 more families in Mattapan, Brighton, and Dorchester this year.
“There is no more pressing need right now than to address the displacement we are seeing not just in East Boston, but across the City,” said Al Caldarelli, Executive Director of the East Boston CDC. “The Wu administration took a chance and invested in a new model last year with East Boston CDC. Together, we were able to reclaim 114 units of family housing. By creating this fund, the Wu administration is scaling up this innovative model and pioneering new approaches to fighting displacement.”
“This acquisition fund is a significant opportunity to make communities healthier,” said Megan Sandel, Co-Director of the GROW clinic at Boston Medical Center. “Taking housing units off the speculative market to be permanently affordable will create more stable and healthier families for children to thrive.”
Making it easier for families to enroll in early education & growing the early education workforce
This spring, Boston will launch a one-stop-shop platform to help parents and caregivers find early education and childcare seats citywide and enroll in the City’s free Universal Pre-K, including family child care, community-based programs, and pre-kindergarten in the Boston Public Schools. This announcement builds on the successful and significant expansion of Universal Pre-K
to 390 more families last year, which are high-quality, free seats for 3- and 4-year-olds across Boston. This year, the City also funded tuition and certifications
for 430 new early educators who committed to staying and teaching in Boston through grants to Bunker Hill Community College, Urban College of Boston, UMass Boston, and Neighborhood Villages.
“Through this opportunity with the City of Boston and Urban College, I have been able to grow personally and professionally, since my experience has been enriching and has expanded my vision of early education,” said early educator Elisanet Vásquez. “Taking the early education courses has been one of the best decisions I have made, as the classes gave me a solid understanding of the theory and practice of early education, which in turn, has improved my confidence and skills in working with children and families and has motivated me to continue my studies. I am very grateful to Mayor Wu for this opportunity and for everything she is doing to support the Boston early childhood community.”
Bolstering partnerships with higher education institutions for BPS students
To ensure that BPS high school students have access to early college and career pathways with the City’s world-class higher education and health care institutions, Mayor Wu announced the following partnerships:
Bunker Hill Community Community College (BHCC) will broaden its partnership with Charlestown High School by offering every student the opportunity to take college courses either through dual enrollment or early college pathways in business, technology, and health. In September, BHCC and Charlestown High School will launch the City’s second Year 13 program, which provides a full year of free college courses to Charlestown graduates. Mayor Wu announced the City’s first Year 13 partnership, between UMass Boston and Fenway High School, in last year’s State of the City address.
Roxbury Community College will partner with Boston International Newcomers Academy (BINCA), the Margarita Muñiz Academy, and English High School to launch the first early college incubator designed specifically for multilingual students. Creating systems for multilingual students to successfully access college coursework is a key component of the Boston Public Schools’ expansion of early college and career pathways.
Mass General Brigham will deepen its partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers to ensure Boston’s healthcare professions reflect the community. More details about this partnership to expand BPS’ health career pathways and work-based learning will be announced later in January.
Mayor Wu also announced that Boston Public Schools has signed an agreement with UMass Boston and Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco to transform the BCLA-McCormack High School into the district’s first University-Assisted Community Hub School. This agreement will give BCLA-McCormack students unprecedented access to UMass coursework and opportunities, partner talented educators from both institutions, help develop UMass graduate students into future teachers and counselors, and create a seamless pathway into UMass Boston for BCLA-McCormack graduates. This partnership accompanies BCLA-McCormack planned renovations to create a state-of-the-art high school campus embedded in the Columbia Point community.
“Engaging our students and advising them about their college and career opportunities will set them up for success now and in the future,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper. “Mayor Wu’s leadership has enabled BPS to dramatically expand Early College and career pathways across our high schools. This work is crucial for the success of Boston’s young people and we are proud to have a Mayor who prioritizes education and giving our high school students the skills, knowledge, and experience through Early College and Career pathways that will serve them throughout their lives.”
"I thank Mayor Wu, Superintendent Skipper and BCLA/McCormack Head of School Ondrea Johnston for their partnership in what will be the first university-assisted community school in Massachusetts,” said UMass Boston Chancellor Marcelo Suarez-Orozco. “As Boston's premiere public research university, we are committed to providing BPS students with an equitable pathway to and through UMass Boston. We look forward to working alongside the Mayor and Superintendent with BCLA/McCormack leadership, teachers, students, parents and the community to ensure this is a successful collaboration."
Nation-leading federal investment in electric school buses
With a record $20 million grant
from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Boston will add 50 electric school buses this year, more than doubling the current fleet of electric buses. The funding will cover costs to purchase the new buses and install expanded charging infrastructure to service them. There are 20 electric buses currently in the BPS fleet and an additional 19 buses have been ordered and will be on the roads later this school year. This unprecedented federal investment will bring healthier commutes for students and bus drivers, cleaner air in City neighborhoods, and a significant step forward in BPS’ transition to a greener and climate-ready City. Since launching the first electric buses in 2022, BPS and the City have demonstrated that students, drivers, mechanics, and administrators are ready to make a rapid shift to an all-electric school bus fleet.
“Today, Investing in America means investing in 135 new clean electric school buses that will bring kids to school all across Massachusetts and Connecticut. By prioritizing electric buses, we’re not just reducing emissions, we’re tackling environmental injustices, ensuring every child, regardless of zip code, breathes clean air and has a healthier future. From Boston to Worcester, and Hartford to the Cape, the air will be cleaner, and kids will not be breathing in fumes that will give them asthma attacks or increase the chance of future health problems,” said EPA Regional Administrator David Cash. “In addition, thanks to these historic investments, the technology innovation that go into low-emission school buses are launching us into America’s clean energy future.”
Creating access to youth job opportunities for all BPS students
Last year, the City provided 10,000 summer youth jobs, far surpassing a goal of 7,000 jobs. During her State of the City address, Mayor Wu announced a “summer job guarantee” for any BPS student who wants one this summer. In addition to expanded private sector employment with the Boston Private Industry Council and many businesses, the City is also expanding “learn-and-earn” jobs, which pay BPS students to take summer college courses. Local colleges and universities provided over 300 “learn-and-earn” jobs in summer of 2023, including Northeastern University, Boston University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Roxbury Community College, Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, Tufts University, and UMass Boston.
“My internship experience has influenced me through becoming more social and gaining a voice,” said Janaira Diaz, a senior at New Mission High School who worked at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital Department of Patient Access and Hospitality. “This experience has given me insight on how a hospital functions, and has positively impacted my interest in becoming an ultrasound tech going into college.”
Free admission to Boston’s cultural institutions for BPS families
Mayor Michelle Wu announced an unprecedented partnership between the City and leading cultural institutions to make Boston Public Schools students feel at home in the places that show them the world. The program builds on existing access programs at each institution, while, for the first time, creating a common free access experience coordinated by the City. In an experimental pilot, starting in February 2024, on the first and second Sundays of each month, every BPS student and up to three family members will get free admission to the Boston Children’s Museum, the Franklin Park Zoo, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, and the New England Aquarium. Families will show a BPS school ID or an electronic pass to gain admission. The City and institutions will work together to publicize the program and track attendance, and develop plans to extend this pilot.
"We are thrilled to partner with the city and our colleagues to bring free cultural experiences to BPS students and their families,” said Tim Ritchie, president of the Museum of Science. “One of our highest priorities as an institution is creating a learning space that is inclusive, equitable, and accessible for all. The beauty of scientific discovery should not be a privilege, but rather a birthright for every child in the city. We cannot wait to welcome even more BPS families through our doors and to help spark their lifelong love of science.”
“The New England Aquarium is proud to partner on the cultural access pilot and have the opportunity to welcome and inspire even more young people to form a deeper connection to the ocean and the many ways it impacts our lives,” said Vikki N. Spruill, president and CEO of the New England Aquarium. “We applaud Mayor Wu and her team for creating a program that prioritizes increased accessibility and inclusivity for students and families throughout Boston.”
"Boston Children's Museum is pleased to participate in the cultural access pilot program for Boston Public School children and their families to enjoy one of the region’s most important early childhood educational and cultural institutions," said Carole Charnow, President & CEO, Boston Children's Museum. "The Museum is an invaluable resource that provides delightfully interactive creative opportunities for playful exploration. Special thanks to Mayor Wu for launching this program and reinforcing Boston Children’s Museum’s commitment to the community to keep access affordable for all."
“At Franklin Park Zoo, classroom learning is truly brought to life in impactful ways that inspire caring and action on behalf of wildlife and strengthen STEM learning through exploration and fun,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “We are excited to participate in Boston’s cultural access pilot to expand opportunities for Boston schoolchildren and their families.”
“We’re proud to partner with the City on this initiative, and thank the Mayor for her leadership,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts. “It’s an important demonstration of our shared belief that access to the arts is integral in building strong communities. We look forward to welcoming BPS students and their families to the MFA through this program—a bold invitation and a declaration that cultural institutions are places where all belong.”
“The access initiative announced by Mayor Wu is a bold statement that arts and culture are vital for everyone and an important first step to equitably unlocking the full potential of museums for our young people and their families,” said Jill Medvedow, Director of the ICA. “Every day at the ICA, we see how free admission for youth and teens opens the doors to a wide spectrum of activities that are critical for engagement, transformation and change, and we are excited to partner with the City and our colleagues to expand these efforts across Boston.”
Revitalizing Franklin Park to its fullest potential as a shared space for neighbors, student athletes, and professional soccer players
Mayor Wu announced that the City will act on the recommendations from the Franklin Park Action Plan to begin the process of restoring Franklin Park to its fullest potential. Boston will hire a dedicated, full-time Franklin Park administrator and six new full-time maintenance and natural resources staff, bringing dedicated park staffing to the highest level in over 50 years. Currently, the park has three dedicated maintenance staff. The City will also begin the process for community input and design to reimagine and invest in a home for the Elma Lewis Playhouse.
“The Franklin Park Coalition is thrilled to celebrate Mayor Wu’s significant new investments in Franklin Park,” said Rickie Thompson, President of the Franklin Park Coalition. “The Coalition has been advocating for renovations and additional staffing for a significant time. We’re very grateful that Mayor Wu is responsive to these requests and will work to update this critical resource that has been neglected for too long.”
As part of the reinvestment in Franklin Park, last year, Mayor Wu announced a partnership with Boston Unity Soccer Group to renovate the historic White Stadium into the first sports venue in the country that will co-house a pro sports team and a public schools athletic program. When this renovation is complete, Boston’s school communities will have a world-class athletics hub with a professionally-manager grass field, a new eight-lane track, brand new locker rooms, and conditioning spaces. Mayor Wu tonight shared that the City will also create a new booster fund for BPS athletics to cover expenses for uniforms, extra equipment, and dedicated transportation.
“We applaud Mayor Wu’s vision and are thrilled to partner with the City of Boston in its efforts to revitalize White Stadium,” said Jennifer Epstein, Controlling Partner of Boston Unity Soccer Partners. “The transformation of the stadium into a world-class sports facility presents an incredible opportunity for BPS student-athletes, the communities around the park, and our soccer club. We are building our team for Boston and the diverse communities represented here, and we thank the City for its leadership. Working together with the City and members of the community, we look forward to delivering a reimagined White Stadium that enhances our city and contributes positively to the vibrancy and activation of beloved Franklin Park.”
In her address, Mayor Wu also highlighted:
Collaborating on a public health-led approach at Mass & Cass that has removed encampments and helped hundreds of people find housing and begin a path to recovery;
Partnering on a community-driven safety plan that has achieved the lowest levels of gun violence on record;
Negotiating a new police contract that sets a national precedent for community policing, including discipline reform, detail reform, and investing in officer education;
Launching a $10 million life sciences workforce initiative with industry to connect residents with careers in the life sciences, and diversify and strengthen the sector at a moment of groundbreaking achievement by Boston-based companies;
More than doubling the amount awarded to businesses owned by people of color and Boston-based companies through City contracts, including through the City’s nation-leading sheltered markets program to address racial disparities in contracting. Mayor Wu also announced a $9 million investment to build local businesses’ capacity to compete for more and bigger contracts;
Restructuring the BPDA to elevate planning and design; modernizing development review, and launching the first comprehensive rezoning in decades, Squares & Streets, which kicks off next month. In July, BPDA staff will transition to the City—restoring planning as a core function of City government.
Drafting a zero net carbon zoning proposal to help make Boston the greenest city in the nation;
Adding e-bikes to Bluebikes and, in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, launching the lowest-cost annual bikeshare pass in America; Tackling traffic by using machine learning to measure trends, model traffic flow, detect when and where congestion is worst, and help optimize signal timing to unclog key corridors.
More details on the above announcements will be available in the coming weeks and months. To learn more about additional City accomplishments in the past year click here