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Boston’s Mayoral Race: An Indicator for Housing and Zoning Policy in the U.S.?

Annissa Essaibi George (left) and Michelle Wu (right). Image taken from

It’s Election Day, and that means Boston’s closely-watched Mayoral Race will (or should!) come to its conclusion tonight. In the most diverse pool of mayoral candidates that Boston has ever seen, they all had one issue in common: housing and zoning innovation as a key pillar of their platforms.

We call Boston our home, and because of that, this race is important to us. But as we watch through the lens of coUrbanize’s mission – to help our partners build a more equitable, community-oriented development process – we can’t help but think the ramifications of the election stretch way beyond our city.

Historically, Boston has, in many cases, set the tone for progress in numerous fields: education, medicine, technology. Similarly, we believe the results of this race will have important undertones for development in the years to come.

Candidates Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George have what some view as competing opinions on housing and zoning issues. George, often viewed as the more moderate of the two candidates, tends to push back on some of Wu’s more politically left-leaning stances on issues like rent control and free public transportation. Wu argues strongly in favor of providing more widespread access and transparency to the public.

However, as this article from the Boston Globe points out, it’s likely that regardless of the outcome tonight, changes are on the horizon, particularly concerning the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA). Of note, both candidates align on creating a more equitable and inclusive development process, address the housing crisis, and make rental housing more affordable.

Although Wu is widely regarded as the harsher critic of the current development processes, both candidates have voiced proposals that would have significant impact on the BPDA. In our experience working with developers around the country, that type of impact leads to important but necessary changes.

And one way or another, change is already in the air. Boston has begun addressing changes to the development process that stifle housing production, especially affordable housing. As recently as two weeks ago, Boston City Councilors voted to change the parking requirements for affordable projects. Tonight will play a significant role in determining how Boston will continue the path to a more equitable and inclusive system of housing and development.

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