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Aiming to preserve some affordable housing units, Boston council approves bylaws petition

The Boston City Council on Wednesday passed a bylaw petition seeking to preserve and restore some affordable housing and discourage the conversion of such housing to market-priced condominiums.

The approval came over objections from a city watchdog who warned the proposal could hurt housing production and jeopardize existing affordable housing programs in the city.

The measure would apply to former or current federally subsidized housing with “expiring use” restrictions. These restrictions refer to units whose affordability component has time limits under agreed contracts with government agencies, meaning the units could become market rate at any given time.

Under the proposal, municipal authorities would regulate rent for the use and occupancy of units that are currently, or formerly, “involved by the government”, according to the council. documents.

The legislation would allow the city to create a board appointed by the mayor to set a maximum rent for these units. The measure is now heading to the office of Acting Mayor Kim Janey and would be also needs State House approval before it can go into effect.

Councilor Kenzie Bok, one of the proposal’s sponsors, said “the last thing we want to do is go backwards” with the city facing an affordable housing crisis.

Councilman Matt O’Malley said the Forbes building in Jamaica Plain has an “expiring use” restriction and residents of the building’s 147 affordable units are “potentially considering eviction”.

“It will only exacerbate the housing crisis,” he said.

Councilors have proposed such a move many times over the years, but it still died in Beacon Hill.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Councilor Michael Flaherty said the measure could preserve 922 units in the Forbes Building and the Babcock Towers in Allston, both of which are at risk of becoming market-rate housing. next year. O’Malley, said up to 3,000 affordable units could be lost due to “expiring use” restrictions over the next few years.

“It would be catastrophic for the city,” Flaherty said.

Earlier this month, the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a city watchdog, opposed the proposal. The office said applying a broad rent cap to low-income homes would discourage developers from working with the city to add affordable housing stock, among a number of other criticisms. The office also described the proposal as rent control, a label that several councilors rejected.

“It’s not rent control,” Councilor Lydia Edwards said at Wednesday’s meeting. “It’s housing stabilization.”

Danny McDonald can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.

Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera