John Barros

As Boston’s population and economy grew over the last few decades, our housing production didn’t keep up, leading to a cycle of rent increases and housing shortages. As a result, far too many of our neighbors struggle to afford rent, young professionals are priced out of buying their first home and too many families are being pushed out of neighborhoods they can no longer afford.

We need to be a city that creates opportunities for all our residents to stay and thrive here, and that helps grow individual and community wealth. As a community development leader and a member of former Mayor Marty Walsh’s cabinet, I’ve spent my career creating new housing opportunities throughout Boston. Now, I’m the only candidate for mayor with the right plan to increase housing production at all levels: affordable, middle-income and market-rate.

During my time as chief of economic development for the city of Boston, the city dramatically increased the production of new housing, and we produced more affordable housing than any other time in Boston’s history. I saw how increased housing production led to a positive cycle: more jobs, more economic growth and more funds that the city could use to produce more housing that is truly affordable for residents who need it the most.

Now, I have a plan to build on that progress, and do even more to create economic growth and develop our city without displacing residents.

More Production, Not Rent Control

My plan, available at, would make affordable housing less expensive to build by streamlining the permitting process and exploring tax subsidies for building new affordable housing units. I support zoning reform for higher-density housing to be built as-of-right near transit, and I would use more city-owned land for affordable homes, including leveraging city-owned buildings to create housing adjacent to libraries, community centers and other public assets and amenities.

I’ll bring all parties to the table to help build more units across the city and region by calling on colleges and universities to build more on-campus housing, including graduate student housing, and by encouraging the cities and towns surrounding Boston to do their fair share in preserving and building affordable housing. And I’ll work to secure the passage of transfer tax legislation for high priced units that would substantially increase affordable housing funds.

Unlike some of my opponents, I’ll also clearly oppose rent control regulations, which would do much more harm than good.

In every major city that’s tried it, from New York to San Francisco, the effects of rent control are clear: Less new housing is produced, and rents increase for anyone not protected by rent control’s narrow rules. The long term results are higher rent, more displacement and reduced economic growth.

Rent control would be a handout to the highest-income Boston renters, who would avoid annual rent increases on their luxury apartments. However, rent control is not a real solution for the many families in Boston who currently struggle to afford already too-high rents.

Rent control would put an immediate damper on construction of new housing, including the mixed-income housing developments that provide a large portion of Boston’s new affordable housing. That means that more people would be competing to buy the same number of homes, because we would not be creating enough new homes, and housing prices would continue to soar.

Focus on Who Needs Relief

Rather than pursuing a disastrous housing strategy with no consideration of who actually needs rental relief, we should focus on increasing housing production at all levels of affordability and on increasing opportunities for homeownership and wealth creation in our neighborhoods.

As executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, I led the creation of the largest urban land trust in the country to protect the Dudley community from displacement and built 225 permanently affordable homes. As mayor, I’d build on the city’s homeownership programs and mortgage products, so more people have access to the stability that homeownership brings, and to help Black and Brown families build wealth.

I’ll also look to expand the land trust model in Boston, creating a fund that supports the acquisition of land and creation of affordable housing by community land trusts. I’ll support the creation of shared ownership programs like neighborhood investment companies, which acquire property with capital that is raised by selling interest shares at low cost to community residents.

By ramping up housing production at all levels and dramatically increasing homeownership opportunities for Boston residents, we can deliver a city where growth doesn’t mean displacement, and where a rising tide lifts all boats.

John Barros is a candidate for mayor of Boston. He was the chief of economic development under former mayor Marty Walsh.

To Address Prices, Displacement, Boston Must Boost Housing Production

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min