Robert C. Larson Awards 2017 Finalist: Boston, MA
July 17, 2017
Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development’s Neighborhood Homes Initiative (NHI) is designed to turn approximately 250 city-owned parcels into housing affordable to a range of middle-class home buyers. The plan implements a unique streamlining process with multiple stages of neighborhood approval to ensure that any house built fits in with the surrounding community.
Launched in 2015 as a creative use for city-owned land parcels scattered across Boston, the initiative targets properties that are too small for significant density to bolster middle-income housing. Residents are heavily involved in the process and approve preliminary designs for primarily single- or two-family homes that would be “contextual” with the surrounding buildings.
Every step of the initiative is taken with an eye toward reducing friction in the development process. Before a Request for Proposals (RFP) is released, before a developer comes on board, before designs are finalized, and long before the land is sold, the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) meets with abutters to get their input into the lot design. City architects initially prepare prototype designs and, through frequent community meetings, neighbors can weigh in on gables, porches, window height, setbacks, etc.
The city then markets the homes to moderate and middle-income buyers. Interested parties are first vetted through the Boston Home Center, which offers classes and financing assistance to prospective first-time homebuyers. The NHI housing lottery draws from the center’s pool of potential buyers. Affordable homes are slated for income levels between 80% and 100% of the area median income.