A new housing development player is emerging under the Walsh administration: the city of Boston.
Of course, city officials aren’t actually building apartments in Roxbury or condos in Dorchester. But a new report from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau shows the progress city officials made in efforts to put city-owned parcels, many acquired through tax foreclosures, back on the tax rolls.
It hasn’t been particularly fast progress, though. The watchdog group analyzed roughly 450 parcels that the Walsh administration put in play since 2015. More than 180 have either been fully developed or are in the final stages of disposition. Taken together, they represent 458 housing units and approximately $1.4 million in annual property taxes that didn’t exist before.
Bureau president Sam Tyler says Mayor Marty Walsh’s team has been far more aggressive in selling off city-owned land than the Menino administration was. Tyler considers what the Walsh administration has accomplished so far to be a success, although he’d like to see more done to get commercial spaces built in the neighborhoods.
He’s hopeful about two other initiatives the administration just launched. One looks at redeveloping portions of properties that the city uses today, like a firehouse or library, while keeping the municipal services on site. The other aims to create a fund — financed largely by private-sector dollars, possibly foundation money — to foster affordable housing or neighborhood businesses, and help curb gentrification.
Turning over city land is a deliberative, often cumbersome process, and 458 housing units represent a tiny step toward Walsh’s goal to create 53,000 by 2030. But in a city as expensive as Boston, every little bit helps.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @jonchesto.