City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu held a press conference outside of the Egleston Branch of the Boston Public Library (BPL) on June 14, where she talked about her plans for affordable housing.
Rev. Vernon Walker of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Sierra Club (among other organizations), which has endorsed Wu’s campaign, provided some remarks at the conference.
He spoke about the inequity that many Boston residents, especially communities of color, face when it comes to being able to afford safe, healthy housing, adding that since the pandemic began, there are more than 20,000 Boston residents who face eviction.
“There is a housing crisis in the city,” he said. “This is why we need affordable housing.”
Walker also said that the creation of energy-efficient affordable housing is not only better for the environment, but would pass on cost savings to residents as well.
“Building homes with clean energy technology is just one more way to improve the quality and to ensure healthier lives for residents,” he said.
Wu said that Egleston Square is “a community that is one of several epicenters of the affordable housing crisis in Boston.” She added that more than 37 percent of Egleston-area residents are “rent burdened.”
She also spoke about the proposal to add affordable housing on top of the Egleston Square library, which has been proposed for a few other BPL branches as well. Wu said that other public buildings and land, such as community centers and municipal parking lots, could be utilized for affordable housing as well.
“This is a great location and just one example of many places across the city where we could do that,” Wu said of the Egleston Square branch. “I’m also committed to making sure that we are putting funds and creating the workforce to make this happen.”
Wu said she would also commit to an audit of city resources to recognize where land is readily available for the construction of affordable housing.
Additionally, Wu and Councilor Kenzie Bok have started a discussion on an Urban Conservation Corps for the city, which would be a “training program that would empower our residents to know how to provide the skills and the technology to be able to retrofit buildings and homes all across the city,” Wu said, adding that she would ensure that funds from the city’s capital budget would be “directly” invested into the creation of affordable housing.
“Boston is poised to receive half a billion dollars in federal relief funds to help us deal with the outcomes of this pandemic,” Wu said, and if elected mayor, she would commit $200 million of those funds “into solutions for housing, home ownership, construction of new units, and making sure that we are engaging with residents across every neighborhood for how we see immediate relief to the crises that were here long before COVID-19,” she said.
Wu was also asked how her plan for housing would be different from that of Mayor Marty Walsh.
Wu said that during the Walsh administration, “we have really leaned almost exclusively on trying to push the private sector to be the engine to generate affordable housing. It is simply not enough.”
She added that while ensuring that private developers still contribute to affordable housing through linkage funds and the like is important, she said she would advocate for increasing the required on-site affordability for residential housing projects.
She also reiterated that as mayor, she would use funding from the capital budget, as well as work with the Boston Housing Authority to increase the ability to create affordable housing throughout the city.
Wu also said that she would reexamine the city’s zoning code to allow for more density and a faster process for “100 percent affordability and deep affordability, especially near transit,” she said.
Wu is also advocating for an end to displacement, and called for the need to have regulations on rent.
For more information on Wu’s campaign and housing plan, visit michelleforboston.com.