By John Lynds
In the spring, Boston Inspectional Service Department (ISD) Commissioner William Christopher made the rounds at East Boston community meetings to drum up support for a new pilot program his department was proposing. Christopher told residents that Eastie was picked as one of three neighborhoods to take part in the city’s Additional Swelling Unit (ADU) pilot program.
Christopher said the proposed program was ISD’s way to respond to all the high-end condos going up across the neighborhood. The city found that a lot of larger older building in Eastie could accommodate an additional unit without coming outside the building’s footprint. This means no additions, no raised roofs, no structural changes of any kind, but provide the opportunity for owner occupied homeowners, like empty nesters, to make a little extra cash and remain in the neighborhood.
However, the pilot program still needed the Boston Planning and Development AGency (BPDA) approval before it moved forward.
Last week, ISD got that approval.
Mayor Martin Walsh supported the program saying ADUs will increase affordable housing options, create safer living arrangements and support multigenerational family arrangements and opportunities for aging in place so homeowners can remain in their homes. ADUs provide an opportunity to use existing infrastructure to achieve the City’s housing goals.
“We must be innovative and think creatively in order to accomplish our goals of providing more affordable housing options for those that want to live here,” said Walsh. “Additional Dwelling Units are an important component in our efforts to create additional housing for our growing population while ensuring that our residents have the opportunity to stay in their homes.”
Eastie will join Jamaica Plain and Mattapan in the the pilot program, but there are some restrictions.
After the pilot program receives Boston Zoning Board of Appeal approval in November homeowners can apply to ISD, and submit drawings that will be reviewed by both ISD and BPDA.
You have to live in the house, you can not go above three units and there are no building code requirements and issues that are going to be compromised. Interested homeowners will apply by submitting a set of drawing to be reviewed by ISD and the BPDA so the two agencies can make sure it is a real unit that is habitable and is up to code.
The intention is not to create high priced housing, but to allow for a homeowner to build an additional unit for a mother or father or a mother and father to build an additional unit for a son or daughter, and a way of trying to keep people in the neighborhood without changing the look or fabric of the neighborhood.
The pilot program will also provide additional resources to support homeowners interested in building an ADU. An online toolkit will support homeowners with information about applying for a permit, identifying the cost of building a unit and explaining the type of ADUs allowed. The city will also provide a zero interest deferred equity loan up to $30,000 for eligible homeowners through the Boston Home Center.
Under the pilot program, an ADU shall be an allowed use where it may be otherwise conditional or forbidden provided that it is the addition of no more than one dwelling unit to the existing structure, and will be exempt from all provisions of the Boston Zoning Code, provided that the ADU does not involve any bump out, extension or construction to the existing envelope of the structure which results in the addition of Gross Floor Area.
“Boston’s housing crisis cannot be solved through the creation of new units in bulk alone. The City must also find ways to evolve our 19th century residential fabric to meet the needs of its 21st century occupants,” said Principal at Utile inc. Matthew Littell, “ADUs can provide the flexibility to support not only a growing population, but a more diverse and vulnerable one. Allowing homeowners more freedom to adapt their existing homes to changing needs sets the stage for long term preservation of neighborhoods that continue to struggle with the pressures of Boston’s unprecedented growth.”