Phillips & Angley

Developers may need to get creative to meet Boston's housing need

As a real estate developer, you are probably already aware that Boston has a housing shortage. You may be one of the many developers who is trying to figure out how you can fill this need.

One of the primary concerns is space. Boston is an old city with an abundance of history, charm and, well, buildings. Finding places to put in new housing within the city becomes more challenging every year. You may have to get creative to stay competitive.

Would you consider any of these options?

Single-family homes may not work in a lot of areas, but condominiums and apartments would. Yes, construction costs, and land can cost. Still, the returns might be worth it. According to "Curbed," these housing options could potentially fit into places that require a bit of imagination, such as the following:

  • The city has numerous vacant land parcels waiting for development. Instead of staying vacant, new housing could cut in into the shortage and perhaps revive or invigorate a neighborhood.
  • At least one development is going in around and atop a transit hub. With more people wanting to use public transportation, this could provide a viable option for housing development.
  • There is still room around the waterfront, especially to the north of an existing development in the Seaport District. Efforts to rezone this area are already in progress despite some opposition.
  • The airspace over throughways such as the Massachusetts Turnpike presents a challenge for a developer with an imagination.
  • Purchasing an existing development that may have faltered under someone else always remains an option.

Any of these options could present an opportunity for some unique housing developments for the city. Of course, you would need to consider the pros and cons from every angle before even attempting it. One of the considerations is zoning. In some areas, it would certainly need to be changed in order to accommodate residential construction. But would it make sense to ask for simple residential zoning? A mixed-use development might fare better.

Part of the issue is convincing government officials that getting creative would help the city's communities. Resistance to change is normal, but with the right approach, any doubts could fall away. As you may know, working with zoning boards is not always an easy task. If you do decide to embark on a new project to provide housing for those living here in Boston, and those who want to, you may fare better with some experienced legal counsel at your side.

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