At the October 20 Boston City Council meeting, the Council passed “An order regarding a text amendment to the Boston zoning code with respect to parking minimums for affordable housing.” The order was introduced by Councilors Kenzie Bok and Matt O’Malley. The amendment would remove parking minimums for affordable residential developments where at least 60% of the units are income-restricted at 100% Area Median Income (AMI) or below.
Often, affordable, senior, and supportive housing developments are delayed, stalled, or reduced in size due to lawsuits on the basis of parking. Just recently, several developments with broad community support have been delayed or stopped due to frivolous lawsuits connected to their pursuit of variances to official parking minimums. Back on September 18th, advocates from Mass Senior Action, City Life / Vida Urbana, Abundant Housing MA, and other local resident groups protested one such property in Jamaica Plain, where 38 units of affordable senior housing are held up by such a lawsuit. This zoning amendment would eliminate the use of parking minimums as a bad-faith tactic for stalling such affordable housing, while still allowing the right amount of parking for each affordable housing project to be determined on a case-by-case basis through the project review process.
“We know that every unit lost due to delay or the cost of unnecessary, mandated parking is a lost housing opportunity for someone who badly needs it,” said Councilor Bok. “It’s time to make sure we are putting homes for people first and doing away with parking minimums that don’t reflect our current needs.” A study by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council found that the current parking minimums in the City of Boston are largely outdated and produce parking that goes unused.
“The need to build affordable housing in Boston has never been more vital, with half of Boston’s renters being rent-burdened,” said Councilor O’Malley. “Eliminating parking minimums is an impactful and commonsense policy solution that can provide transformative relief for affordable housing builders.”
Having received City Council approval, the proposal will next proceed to consideration by the Board of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and then the Boston Zoning Commission.