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Child care in Boston to get funding boost through zoning requirements

Mayor Michelle Wu signs an executive order clarifying how much office developers should pay for off-site child care. (Carrie Jung/WBUR)
Mayor Michelle Wu signs an executive order clarifying how much office developers should pay for off-site child care. (Carrie Jung/WBUR)

Boston's Office of Early Childhood is about to get a major new source of funding. An executive order signed Tuesday by Mayor Michelle Wu specifies the level of cash contributions developers must pay toward child care services when building downtown.

The order builds on a policy spearheaded by former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn in 1989. That policy required that any new commercial building in one of 14 downtown districts either provide a child care space on-site or supply resources for new child care spaces elsewhere in the city.

City officials have struggled to enforce the off-site contribution payments for decades because the city didn't clearly define how much those payments should be.

Now, per Wu's order, developers must pay $100 per square foot of building space if they choose not to provide an on-site child care center. City officials estimate that will generate up to $3.5 million, or around $1 million of additional funding per year.

"We look forward to continuing to work with the development community, residents, advocates and community members," said Wu at a media conference at the City Hall Childcare Center announcing the executive order. "To ensure that the benefits of growth in Boston are shared equitably across our city so we can all thrive."

The Office of Early Childhood will manage the new funds. The office will distribute funding for a range of child care needs in the city, from helping existing providers expand their services to opening new child care centers. Wu says the money will also help the city retrofit existing child care facilities so they can be more energy efficient — for instance, through the installation of high-quality air filters.

"This expansion of potential child care resources could not have come at a better time," said Sarah Jimenez, a senior researcher at Community Labor United. Jimenez's group is one of several unions and labor organizations that belong to the Care that Works Coalition. "Now, after today, when we see a crane in the sky, we know that it's not only a building that will rise, but a child, a caregiver and a community too."

Related:

Carrie Jung Twitter Senior Reporter, Edify
Carrie is a senior education reporter with Edify.

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