ISD’s New Housing Program Launches in East Boston

Last year,  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 Dwelling Unit (ADU) pilot program.

ISD’s Omar Khoshafa discusses the city’s Additional Dwelling Unit pilot program in Eastie at a recent community meeting.

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 the opportunity for owner occupied homeowners, like empty nesters, to make a little extra cash and remain in the neighborhood.

At a recent community meeting, ISD’s Omar Khoshafa said the department is ready to launch the pilot program in Eastie. Khoshafa said the department is currently engaged in a reach-out campaign in the neighborhood to get homeowners interested in the program and see whether they qualify.

“We believe East Boston residents will be prime beneficiaries of this program,” said Khoshafa. “This program will allow certain homeowners here add another unit to their homes without going through the lengthy variance process thereby allowing them to increase their rental income while aging in place.”

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) green-lit the ADU pilot program in the fall for Eastie, Jamaica Plain and Mattapan. The program received support from the Walsh Administration as well with Mayor Martin Walsh saying ADUs will increase affordable housing options, create safer living arrangements and support multigenerational family arrangements and opportunities for homeowners to 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.”

However, Khoshafa cautioned the ADU pilot program comes with some restrictions.

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 building code requirements and issues that are not going to be compromised,” said Khoshafa. “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.

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