From growing up in Dorchester to teaching at East Boston High School, to commuting downtown to City Hall, I’ve seen firsthand how much our skyline has shifted and grown over the course of my life – especially within the past decade. While growth brings good jobs, workforce talent and desperately needed housing, the city of Boston must be intentional, thoughtful and inclusive in our approach to development. I have been a leader on many of these issues as an at-large city councilor, and I will build upon my work as mayor to ensure a thriving city for our residents and businesses.
Right now, residents across the city are struggling to pay rent, our families can’t find or afford stable housing and too many individuals are experiencing chronic homelessness. The COVID-19 pandemic has only emphasized these realities and we must be prepared to acknowledge that these issues will last long after the pandemic. We need to directly address housing affordability, all while focusing on creating generational wealth to break down systemic racism in our housing system and increase equity across every neighborhood.
Grow Housing Supply
Increased supply – in Boston and in the surrounding areas – is critical to ensuring housing affordability at all levels of income. Residents across the city agree that our focus should be on creating housing for the many residents and families that don’t qualify for subsidized housing, but still cannot afford to pay market rate. Increasing our housing stock is really one of the only ways to make homes more affordable.
I want my children to be able to live their lives where they grew up, like I did. Housing that is a reflection of the needs of our residents is critical to ensuring the next generation can continue to call Boston home. In my current role as an at-large city councilor, I’ve called for a hearing on the city’s existing residential unit diversity, so we can understand what units we have and what units the community needs to equitably house our residents and proactively shape an inclusive and thriving city.
More must be done to encourage the creation of more senior-specific housing, multi-bedroom affordable housing for families, workforce housing for working residents and artist live/work spaces. We need to plan, then build for the realities of our residents.
As mayor, I’ll prioritize planning that addresses the needs and wants of our specific neighborhoods while also carrying out our overall city-wide vision. Because it goes beyond planning for housing. Think about it this way: when you’re looking to rent an apartment or buy a home, you’re looking at so many other factors too, like the proximity to public transit or parks or local businesses, even the surrounding tree canopy or infrastructure. Master planning, across all aspects and alongside the community, is what will keep us accountable and help create well connected, mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods.
Residents Need a Voice
The future of our neighborhoods must be shaped by the voices of our residents. We need to make the development process as public and accessible as possible. It’s not just about where and when public meetings are held, but who is seated at the table, what language they’re speaking, and how – not if – they follow up with the community.
I’ve introduced legislation calling to reform the notification process to ensure that residents have advance notice of projects to express their concerns and participate in the development of their neighborhoods. I will also explore streamlining the permitting process to make it more efficient and predictable, so that development better reflects the needs and wants of Boston’s residents and small businesses.
For Boston to thrive, we need to ensure our public process works for everyone. As mayor, I will make sure our residents will always have a seat at the table. I will invest in existing community engagement efforts, increase language access for public meetings and official documents and work to earn and rebuild trust between our residents and those in City Hall.
Boston is my home – and I believe in a Boston that fosters critical growth and brings our communities together. I know I can’t achieve this vision alone, but by constructing more housing, creating crucial community space and fostering job creation throughout our vibrant neighborhoods, all while collaborating with our residents, I am confident that together, we can use development to lift up all of Boston.
Annissa Essaibi George is an at-large Boston city councilor and a candidate for mayor.