Today, Mayor Walsh unveiled “Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030”—the administration’s first housing plan, and perhaps, the country’s greenest. The plan includes an entire chapter dedicated to green and sustainable housing. It also incorporates the city’s carbon reduction goals and targets set forth by the city’s Climate Action Plan, which aims for a 7% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the residential sector by 2020 from 2013 levels.
Boston is growing, which surprisingly can be a great thing for greenhouse gas emissions. That is because, typically, people who live in cities have much smaller carbon footprints from driving less and living in more efficient housing. This plan will help us accommodate a growing population and ensure that both new and existing development in Boston is low carbon and prepared for climate change.
Many of the more than 700,000 residents in Boston will live in “advanced sustainable building design in new housing developments.”
By 2030, the City is projected to reach over 700,000 residents—Boston hasn’t been home to that many people since the 1950s. In order to accommodate this growth, and to help address affordability challenges of the city, the plan calls for 53,000 new units by 2030.
But this plan doesn’t just focus on the need for new and more housing—it emphasizes the need to retrofit older homes so that all Boston homes contribute positively to the environment.
So how are we going to build all these units and make sure they’re affordable and green? Mayor Walsh’s plan focuses on the private sector to build much of this new housing, particularly middle-income housing. It outlines a first-ever set of incentives to drive down development costs, including zoning relief, permitting reform, tax incentives, modifications to the Inclusionary Development Policy, and better use of City-owned land.
While the City recognizes the need to streamline processes and encourage development, it is not going to do so by cutting corners on green building standards. The City’s planning efforts are making great progress in greening development, but more will be done – the plan calls for “advanced sustainable building design in new housing developments.” The report also calls attention to the fact that green housing doesn’t have to be more expensive. We have already have examples right here in Boston from Cynthia Loesch and 81 Brent Street, as well as Energy Positive Houses (E+).
With this plan, we have the framework to replicate the affordable, sustainable housing model throughout the City. In turn, this provides the opportunity to Boston’s position as a leader in sustainability.