The City Rent Subsidy Coalition, a Coalition of 32 organizations, rallied Saturday in front of One Dalton to ask that the City of Boston dedicate at least 50% of new property taxes from 5,100 luxury condos in Boston’s pipeline for City-funded rent subsidies to enable low income renters to stay in Boston. The proposal would supplement the federal Section 8 program by increasing low income units in new mixed income housing and providing “Housing First” to Boston residents who are currently experiencing homelessness. Protesters were joined by several members of the coalition, including Community Development Corporations, Boston Democratic Socialists, HousingWorks, several Tenants Associations, ACTUP Boston and the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee.
The group, headed by MAHT and the Save Our Section 8 Committee, wrote Walsh in January 2018 urging him to earmark new property taxes from luxury condos like The Dalton for this purpose. The 160 “super luxury” condos at One Dalton are selling for an several million dollars each, with the top floor fetching $40 million. Opening this spring, the property is expected to generate at least $9 million a year in property taxes.
The Mayor’s Housing Report, Housing in a Changing City, identified 21,100 families earning less than $25,000 per year who will need rent subsidies to stay in the City. “We applaud Mayor Walsh for recently winning 1,000 new Section 8 subsidies from HUD,” said Michael Kane of the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants. “That’s a huge step toward meeting the needs of Boston renters—but much more is needed to prevent displacement. The Dalton alone will generate enough new property taxes to get another 900 homeless people off the streets and into permanently affordable housing.” Kane called for The Dalton’s developers and condo owners to support using their property taxes for this purpose.
In addition to the 1,800 luxury high rise units such as Millennium Towers that have already opened, the Coalition has researched 5,100 “super luxury” units in the pipeline, including The Dalton, that will bring in more than $100 million in “new growth” property taxes in the next four years.
Last week, the Coalition proposed to City officials that 50% of these funds be used to create 5,000 low income rent subsidies for a Boston Rental Affordability Program (Boston RAP) over the next four years. The City’s Neighborhood Housing Trust will consider Councilor Lydia Edwards proposal for Boston RAP at its June meeting.
The Mayor’s 2020 budget includes “new growth” property tax revenues of $50 million. An estimated $16 million of this amount is generated by 800 new luxury units that came on line last year. 50% of these funds would generate $8 million to assist at least 800 low income renters this year alone. Revenue from the Dalton is expected to start in 2021.
“My company handles the waitlists for 100s of properties in the Boston area. We see that the number of full-time employed households who are homeless or at-risk has exploded in the last several years. But a household that works in Boston ought to be able to remain in Boston. Since the displacement of these families is partly due to the explosion of new, non-affordable units, it is so appropriate that tax from the developments causing the displacement be used to fun project-based vouchers for those who have been displaced,” said John LaBella of HousingWorks and Mass Association of Community Development Corporations.
The program, if funded by the City of Boston, could contribute to desperately needed deeply affordable housing in new construction across the city. "'Affordable housing' isn't affordable to those who need it most. We should be asking 'affordable to who?'", said Cherai Mills of the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee.
The Coalition’s most recent letter to the Mayor and other background information can be found at www.cityrentsubsidycoalition.org.