The BPDA board today joined with the Boston City Council in voting to end a requirement that new affordable-housing proposalsinclude off-street parking, as a way of encouraging such projects by eliminating what can now be a costly part of construction.
The proposal now goes to the city Zoning Commission, the keeper of the city's zoning code. If the commission approves the measure at its next meeting, on Dec. 8, it would be formally appended to the zoning code, which is the basis by which projects are allowed or rejected by the Zoning Board of Appeal, which decides whether to allow projects that require variances from that code. Most multi-family projects require such variances - although really large projects, of at least an acre or more, often get their own "planned development area" agreements with the BPDA, in which the two sides basically toss a site's zoning and negotiate what can be built.
The proposed zoning change would waive parking requirements for new proposals in which at least 60% of the units are either rented or sold as what the city considers affordable - for families making no more than 100% of the Boston area median income.
"Eliminating parking minimums for affordable housing developments in Boston is a major step towards expediting much needed transit-oriented housing and moving forward on our climate and sustainability goals," BPDA Director Brian Golden said in a statement
City Councilor Kenzie Bok (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Mission Hill), who co-sponsored the council measure, added:
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. This zoning amendment allows the city and our partners to put homes for people first and remove parking minimums that don’t reflect our current needs.
The proposed change might not have been enough to save a 31-unit apartment building in Roslindale Square that the Zoning Board of Appeal rejected on Tuesday because its plans included no off-street, on-site parking.
Although the developer said it was applying for state grants that might let it rent as many as 100% of the units as affordable, the plans approved by the BPDA and before the zoning board called for only 42% of the units - or 13 in total - to be rented as affordable.
That still would have been far higher than the 13% of units the city now requires most new buildings to rent or sell as affordable.