At last Wednesday’s City Council hearing District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edwards delivered her maiden speech before the council. Edwards, who was elected to the Council in November, filed her first resolution calling for a hearing regarding real estate speculation in the Boston housing market. Edwards called for the appropriate committee of the Boston City Council to hold a hearing to discuss ways to generate revenue and increase home ownership opportunities by slowing down the speculation within Boston’s housing market.
While Edwards expressed her excitement and hopefulness for the future of Boston in her maiden speech last week, her tone quickly became cautionary.
“Boston made me an attorney, taught me how to fight for others and helped me become the first home owner in my family,” Edwards began. “My pathway was not always easy and did not come from privilege. It was a pathway still that I am blessed to be on. While I am incredibly excited for the future of this city I am keenly aware of the challenges that face so many Bostonians own their pathways.Many of those challenges begin with the basic human need and right for safe, clean, affordable housing.”
Edwards said today Boston is faced with a housing crisis and a wealth gap that for many is directly related to the ability to own a home.
“And for many others the after effect of redlining that kept many people from being home owners,” she said. “It always circles back to housing and generational wealth. In my district, we will be creating Boston’s newest neighborhood at Suffolk Downs at one end and at the other end redoing the oldest and largest housing project in new England located in Charlestown. We will be facing challenges on each extreme of the housing spectrum. We will fight to keep all 1100 housing units in Charlestown and stop displacement while we will fight to assure that our newest neighborhood is welcoming to all economic levels and embraces our incredible diversity.”
Edwards asked her fellow Councilors to make sure district and Boston’s future is not dictated by big business but instead show leadership to hold big business accountable to adjust to the needs and standards set by our community.
“Still at the core of both developments is the very question and need of having a home,” said Edwards. “The city has launched an aggressive goal of building 53,000 housing units and is already ahead of schedule. We are often told that we need to build more and that market forces and that with the age old rule of supply and demand will be able to house our poor, working class, and middle class.The “investor class” and higher income individuals will be drawn to the bright, sleek units and not to our traditional family housing stock.”
In a clear break from the Walsh Administration’s strategy to address the housing crisis by setting an impressive goal of building 53,000 new residential units by 2030 Edwards said she doesn’t believe the administration’s policy will work.
“Let me be clear, I do not believe we can build our way out of this housing crisis and I am a skeptic of trickle-down housing policies,” said Edwards. “We need a direct and equally aggressive mindset for creating housing for our families. We need real numbers and measurements that reflect the average income of Bostonians and not based on the current area median income. We need targeted, frank discussions with developers. We need to set an investment standard in Boston. We need to play defense and protect our housing stock like it is one of the most precious resources we have.”
It was these reasons Edwards said she decided to file her resolution that she says plays some defense by demanding a discourse on speculation and its correlation to affordability.
“All the building in this great City will be for nothing if we turn around and find decimated neighborhoods that barely have a history or sense of community,” said Edwards. “If your goal is to flip houses and make money on the backs of working families let me state that Boston is not for sale. If you come here to treat our neighborhoods like a piece of stock that can be traded on Wall Street. This city is not for you. Boston is not for sale!”
Edwards said more work needs to be done to balance the type of high end development that is being proposed in her district with development that addresses displacement and poverty.
“Our future is at stake and we have work to do. We will rise to the occasion and meet this challenge head on,” she said. “Boston, we can build more than just buildings. We can and must build pathways out of poverty through housing. We can and must build sustainable climate ready housing for all. We need multiple entries to home ownership that are are funded and supported by the City of Boston.”
Edwards then called for the city to adopt a community benefit standard agreement.
“Let us protect our tenants and help them become owners,” said Edwards. “Let us provide resources for our small mom and pop landlords to help them keep up with upgrades and incentivize them to house our vulnerable populations at reasonable rents through tax, insurance, and other policies. Let us protect all Bostonians on their pathway. Let’s be sure that we can always say to struggling single parents, to newly arriving immigrants, to young people just starting out and forever to families that have been here for generations…Welcome to Boston. Welcome home.”