Boston City Council Votes to End Minimum Parking Requirements for Affordable Housing

3368 Washington rendering credit RODE Architects/BPDA
A rendering of a proposed Pine Street Inn supportive housing development in Jamaica Plain. In 2020, a neighboring landlord sued to block the project over fears that it could be more difficult to find free on-street parking. Courtesy of RODE Architects/BPDA.

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.

The changes would complement recent rule changes to the city’s “Article 80” permitting process that will limit the amount of parking that developers would be allowed to build in large developments (over 50,000 square feet).

Courtesy of the City of Boston
Courtesy of the City of Boston

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under the Article 80 process, which leaves them vulnerable to lawsuits when they seek necessary variances from Boston’s outdated and complex zoning rules.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lawsuits filed by the owners and landlord of the Turtle Swamp Brewing in Jamaica Plain, who have exploited the city’s outdated parking rules to block and delay the construction of affordable housing nearby.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.

This spring, Gold and the owners of Turtle Swamp Brewery each filed new lawsuits against another proposed  building that’s been proposed on the lot next door to the brewery.

That project aims to create 38 affordable homes for seniors, plus a new restaurant space for El Embajador Restaurant.

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