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Paths to Economic Equity and Affordable Housing

Two Reports Propose Bold Solutions to Intractable Problems

TBF News: Fall/Winter 2020/2021

As the research center at the Boston Foundation, Boston Indicators' stock in trade is timely, clear and accessible data analysis that reveals new connections or confirms observations about trends and dynamics in our region. With two recent reports and webinars, it proposes some bold solutions to intractable problems.

Guaranteed Income Cover Read the Guaranteed Income Report

Through A Guaranteed Income for Massachusetts, Indicators looks to the future, using data not just to predict trends but to propose real action to counter a current problem. Authored by Boston Indicators, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and the Economic Security Project, the report suggests that cash is one of the most effective ways to help families stuck in cycles of poverty. Contrary to fears that people don’t deserve “something for nothing” and quit working if given a monetary boost, numerous pilot programs and experiments where modest direct payments have allowed working poor people to finally achieve goals of stability, advancement and self-sufficiency.

But how to introduce something like a guaranteed basic income in Massachusetts? The reforms to support Massachusetts’ lowest income residents will require additional revenues, which could come from progressive adjustments to the tax code. Not without challenges, but the benefits of greater stability, health and achievement for folks on the lower economic rungs will reverberate throughout the economy and society. Trevor Mattos urged daring and reminded us, “Massachusetts has led on big change before [think marriage equality…]. This report offers a pathway for Massachusetts to be a leader in this.”

Zoned Out cover graphic 20201021 Read Zoned Out

The cost and availability of housing in Massachusetts is a pain point for many working families. Greater Boston’s traffic is among the worst in the country. Building more affordable housing near transit stations could address both those problems—but to date, it’s not happening. The Boston Indicators and Brookings report Zoned Out: Why Massachusetts Needs to Legalize Apartments Near Transit, posits that a single statewide change to zoning restrictions near transit hubs could enable the development of moderately-priced housing in some of the region’s most in-demand communities, alleviating Greater Boston’s housing affordability crisis.

Authored by Boston Indicators and Brookings Institution, the report suggests that the wrong level of government—cities and towns, rather than the state—is making too many of our important policy decisions. The report offers one concrete model for how the state can take a more proactive role in setting land use regulations. It shows how legalizing apartments near transit could enable infill redevelopment around suburban community rail stations by converting parcels currently used as single-family homes into moderate density multi-family lots.

Commenting on both reports, Boston Indicators Senior Director Luc Schuster said, “These are not the only good ideas for big solutions, but we hope they will help contribute to the growing conversation.” He added, “Without specific ideas on the agenda, we’re not going to be able to act and move the lever.”