At a meeting of the Boston City Council on Wednesday, councilors voted unanimously to eliminate minimum off-street parking requirements for affordable residential development projects where at least 60 percent of the units are income-restricted for families whose household incomes are at or below the area median income.
The proposed zoning amendment still needs approval from the Board of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and the Boston Zoning Commission before it takes effect, but the Council's unanimous approval of the change is a powerful endorsement.
Many affordable housing developments are too small to apply under the Article 80 process, which leaves them vulnerable to lawsuits when they seek necessary variances from Boston's outdated and complex zoning rules.
In a press statement announcing the vote, Councilor Kenzie Bok, who sponsored the order with Councilor Matt O'Malley, said 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. 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.”
In prior discussions over the proposed zoning change, city councilors repeatedly cited anti-housing lawsuits filed by the owners and landlord of the Turtle Swamp Brewing in Jamaica Plain, who have exploited the city's outdated parking rules to block and delay the construction of affordable housing nearby.
As previously reported on StreetsblogMASS, Monty Gold, the owner of Turtle Swamp’s building at 3377 Washington St., last year filed a lawsuit to overturn the city’s approvals for 202 new apartments and associated social services for formerly homeless individuals across the street at at 3368 Washington St.
That lawsuit was recently settled after Gold was able to extort extra parking lease agreements from the project’s nonprofit developers.