Our Statement & Calls to Action on the City of Boston’s Squares & Streets Initiative

1/12/24 Update: Our collective advocacy has led to the implementation of the highest density district within the Squares & Streets Initiative. Thank you! Your voice matters and is still needed! The BPDA is seeking feedback to the questions depicted below. Click here to submit your comments and ideas before January 28th. You are also welcome to resubmit new ideas as you have them.

AHMA’s Full Statement

Abundant Housing Massachusetts (AHMA) believes that by achieving housing abundance for all households regardless of socioeconomic status, will make the City of Boston more affordable for everyone. 

When housing is scarce, we are all forced into bidding wars for the few homes available–for rent, or for sale. Due to the income inequality in the City of Boston, rising rent costs are forcing longtime BIPOC residents to be displaced out of the city and move into more affordable cities and towns. The impacts of housing scarcity are plain to see in the City of Boston: homeowner vacancy below 1% and rental vacancy of approximately 2%, high rents, and ever-escalating shares of Bostonians paying more than 30% of their income in rent.

We applaud the Mayor and the City of Boston for launching the Squares and Streets zoning effort. Modernizing our zoning code with reforms that reduce the need for variances while enhancing simplicity and predictability are long overdue and should be implemented without delay.

While supportive of the effort, we are advocating for the following changes: 

  • Inclusion of the S-5: Placemaker Squares (highest density) District, which was presented in earlier presentations. We strongly believe this must be included in the draft text amendment as we need predictable planning. While community engagement is essential, local feedback cannot be the deciding criteria for where S0 through S5 are mapped during the Squares + Streets process. 
  • Objective criteria must be used, including proximity to existing business corridors and transit access. Every neighborhood in Boston must allow for greater density. If we want to equitably address the current housing crisis, loud opposition from wealthy homeowners in one neighborhood should not be allowed to shift even higher density to other areas of the city. Housing should be built where needed, not just where the public doesn’t object to it.

In order to ensure that pro-housing voices are heard, we’re counting on AHMA’s Boston-based members to engage in the Squares + Streets process. Take action now during the open public comment period through the public comment form before Sunday January 28, 2024. We welcome you to use AHMA’s talking points referenced below. 

For all public meetings and other events, please visit the
official page for additional information.

List of public meetings:

  • Squares + Streets Zoning Community Office Hour, Wed, Dec 27 (6:30 PM – 7:30 PM) (additional office hours in January)
  • Squares + Streets Citywide Draft Zoning Amendment Update Public Meeting, Mon, Jan 10 (6:00 PM – 7:30 PM)
  • Squares + Streets Citywide Zoning Amendment Final Public Meeting, Tues, Feb 6 (6:00 PM – 7:30 PM)
  • TENTATIVE: BPDA Board Meeting, Thurs, Feb 15 (3:30 PM – 7:30 PM)
  • TENTATIVE:Boston Zoning Commission Meeting, Wed, Mar 13 (9:00 AM – 11:00 AM)

Our Vision for Boston

A lack of sufficient housing supply actively prevents many households from staying in and moving to Boston. A way to combat this and to realize AHMA’s vision for housing abundance in Boston more tangible, we have developed the following key tenets for zoning reform: 

  • Eliminate costly parking mandates citywide, following municipalities like Minneapolis, San Francisco, Nashville, Austin, and Cambridge.
  • Allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) by right citywide, following the lead of municipalities like Worcester and Salem.
  • Allow residential buildings up to 7 stories/85ft by mass transit stations
  • Allow residential buildings up to 5 stories/60ft by right citywide

These measures address a key cost barrier to all new housing in Boston while rendering some of the most cost-effective housing typologies buildable by right. Given the depth of the housing crisis in the City of Boston, only broad measures applicable in all neighborhoods can address the housing crisis. 

We strongly believe these key tenets will provide a pathway for a variety of housing options for all. To achieve this, development should be done by limiting or removing arbitrary restrictions and eliminating expensive mandates altogether.

Take Action

The public comment period on the draft zoning for the Squares + Streets initiative is currently open and is set to end on Sunday, January 28, 2024.

We are counting on you to:

  1. Submit comments using the city’s public comment form including the talking points provided by AHMA, and…
  2. Attend at least one (1) community office hour session and/or a public meeting

The BPDA holds recurring  Squares + Streets Zoning Community Office Hours throughout the process. Join the next upcoming public meetings on December 27 and January 10 from 6:30 – 7:30PM, this will be a space to share questions and thoughts on the draft zoning text amendment and the proposed zoning districts. Please refer to the official page for additional information, events and important dates. 

By actively participating in the Squares+Streets initiative process through public comment and meeting attendance, you are helping bring AHMA’s vision of housing abundance to the City of Boston.

AHMA Talking Points on Squares & Streets

The City of Boston is requesting feedback, in the following format, on the Squares & Streets Initiative. Use these talking points to provide your feedback and make the pro-housing case!