A rundown of housing policies announced during Wu's State of the City

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Did you watch Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s first State of the City speech last night? We’re kicking off this morning’s newsletter with what you missed, before we get to today’s news:

Wu wanted a newer, bigger venue for her first State of the City, so she opted to take the stage at the MGM Music Hall by Fenway Park over her predecessor’s favorite haunt, Symphony Hall. During her half-hour speech, she announced some plans that were just as new and large, aimed at pouring new foundations for construction and housing in Boston.

  • Her biggest swing came for the agency that controls most of the wrecking balls in town. While her longtime goal of completely dismantling the Boston Planning and Development Agency requires some state approvals, Wu said she will begin shifting the city’s planning work from the BPDA to a new department in her purview over the coming year. That work starts today with a new executive order establishing a Planning Advisory Council.
  • Wu also made clear last week’s trial balloon to bring back caps on rent increases is still afloat. In the “coming weeks,” Wu said she’ll send a home rule petition to the City Council. (If it passes, the measure will also need state approval.)
  • A bargaining chip: Wu said she’d offer 150 vacant city-owned lots to developers “for free” if they’re willing to use the spaces to build affordable housing. Plus, the city plans to offer increased mortgage assistance “so our residents can afford to buy these homes.”
  • The speech wasn’t solely about housing. Wu also outlined plans for Boston Public Schools and touted her administration’s staff and accomplishments along the way. You can watch a replay of the speech here or read her full remarks here.

There’s a tax battle brewing in Newton. WBUR’s Samuele Petruccelli reports that the city is gearing up for a special election on a property tax hike proposed by Mayor Ruthanne Fuller to help raise $15 million for a range of investments, including a $4.5 million chunk for public schools. (The special election is necessary due to a state law capping how much communities can raise property taxes each year.)

  • If it passes: For owners of a home worth $1.2 million (the median in Newton), the hike would add $290 to their roughly $12,000 tax bill next year — and increase by another $183 by 2030. Newton also created an online calculator allowing residents to put in their address and see the estimated impact of the tax hike on their home.
  • If it doesn’t pass: School officials warn they could be forced to cut up to 50 teachers and extra-curricular programs without the additional funding. “In the end, when you have to make up a $6-8 million deficit you will be impacting staff,” interim Newton superintendent Kathleen Smith said this week.
  • What’s next: The special election is on March 14. There’s also a virtual town hall on the override vote tonight at 7 p.m.

Heads up: There’s another partial Orange Line shutdown rumbling down the track. This weekend, the MBTA says it will suspend service between North Station and Ruggles to address lingering slow zones that were supposed to be taken care of during the full Orange Line shutdown last summer. And according to some in-station posters, an identical shutdown is scheduled for next weekend, Feb. 4-5, too. (MBTA officials say they’ll release info today or tomorrow on all the diversions coming next month.)

  • To get around downtown, T officials suggest riders take the Green Line instead. They’ll also be running shuttles between Ruggles and Copley, as well as between Government Center and North Station due to nearby Government Center garage demolition work.
  • Show don’t tell: If those diversion plans sound a bit confusing, check out this more illustrative graphic from the T.

P.S.— You all down for a movie night? The Radio Boston team is hosting our first live “Set in Boston” event tonight at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. There will be a screening of the classic Boston crime thriller “The Departed,” followed by a panel discussion with local critics and filmmakers led by host Tiziana Dearing.

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Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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