Andrea Campbell

Housing is the issue that keeps many Bostonians up at night. Every year, it gets harder and harder for working people to afford to live in our city. 

This challenge isn’t new. When I was growing up in the South End and Roxbury in the 1990s, my family (and most of the families around us) lived in affordable housing run by the Tenants’ Development Corp. – first across from the Piano Craft Building on Tremont Street, and then on Massachusetts Avenue. At home, my brothers and I often heard our dad talk about how much he wished he could buy the brownstone we rented on Mass. Ave. Eventually, I realized what he meant: Not only would it mean owning our home, but it would also prevent us from being displaced by rising rents like so many of our neighbors. 

A generation later, my husband and I were searching for our own home in the city, one where we could put down roots and start a family. We were lucky – we were able to afford a home in Mattapan, a community we love. But our search wasn’t easy, and when we signed on the dotted line, I found myself getting emotional as I thought about how the dream of homeownership and housing stability had eluded so many of my family members and friends, and how I would be breaking generational cycles of poverty for my two boys.  

Housing Is a Right 

As city leaders, I believe we must consider housing a fundamental human right.  For Bostonians to fully thrive, they need a safe and reliable place to call home. No Boston Public Schools student can reach their full potential, no young professional can start their career or raise a family and no senior can age in place if they are stressed about next month’s rent, sleeping on a loved one’s couch or living out of their car. Yet too many of our residents lack safe, stable and affordable housing – even while Boston has experienced an unprecedented boom in development.   

That’s why one of my proudest accomplishments – and first ordinance I wrote – as a city councilor was passing the Community Preservation Act, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars for affordable housing, green space, and historic preservation. 

As a mayoral candidate, I’ve released a specific and comprehensive plan to make housing more affordable in the city of Boston.  

My first priority will be to continue the work I started as a councilor and activate 100 vacant, city-owned lots for affordable, mixed-use development in my first 100 days as mayor. These lots are a resource that’s currently being squandered, but with an intentional focus on equitable development, can be turned into homes for thousands of residents. Alongside this work, I’ll turn the city’s Neighborhood Housing Division into a highly functioning land bank, and support community land trusts that put land into the hands of the community for resident-led planning and ownership. 

Smoother Permitting, More Homebuyer Tools 

We also need to reform the city’s zoning and planning processes. As mayor, I will lead a comprehensive Boston Planning & Development Agency reform process to make consistency, transparency and equity core tenets of our planning process. We need to streamline development review and permitting to make these processes more efficient and less costly, and remove affordable housing from the Article 80 review process – allowing for a more straightforward process for building the types of housing Boston needs to keep residents in the city. 

Finally, we need to build pathways to homeownership – an essential tool for residents to build wealth, create savings, economic stability and mobility. My housing plan not only addresses housing affordability and displacement but also aims to close the profound racial wealth gap in our city. I will invest in city programming and create public-private partnerships to expand access to financial services, coaching and a greater range of tools to help first-time homebuyers. I’ll make sure the city builds partnerships with local financial institutions – including with Black-owned banks – to offer diversified and trusted mortgage products, down payment assistance and other support to residents working to buy their first home.  

Importantly, all of this is action the mayor can take on Day One. There’s much more we can and must do, but these priorities are steps toward creating a Boston where longtime residents aren’t pushed out, where young residents can start a family, where employers can attract talent and where we no longer see national headlines spotlighting our city’s deep racial wealth gap.  

That’s the Boston I hope to raise my children in, and the city I hope to lead. 

 Andrea Campbell is the city councilor for Boston’s District 4 and candidate for mayor. 

Bostonians Need Homes to Thrive. This Is How I’ll Achieve That

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min