GentriWatch: Can Walsh’s ‘Housing Innovations’ Save Boston’s Middle Class?

Plus, a new contender for the most expensive home ever sold in Somerville.

Welcome to GentriWatch, where we look for signs of gentrification happening around the city.

Mayor Marty Walsh via City of Boston

Photo by Olga Khvan

In a speech before the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, Mayor Marty Walsh announced four pilot programs from his Housing Innovation Lab, dovetailing with City Hall’s Imagine Boston 2030 planning initiative and aimed at improving affordable housing options for the city’s rapidly disappearing middle class.

These pilot programs, which the Mayor’s Office says were borne of community input and conversations with 15 other cities, will be rolled out within the next three months, and are expected to be complete in a year. A considerable emphasis will be placed on density and compactness.

“Solving the middle income housing challenge is among the biggest challenges we face today,” Walsh said in a release. “The Housing Innovation Lab is bringing a new way of thinking about these issues to the city, and I’m appreciative of the time and energy that they have put into this work. Being able to test new approaches to this issue before solidifying them in policy is a unique approach, and one that we will continue to use to solve new challenges as well.”

A density bonus policy would seek to incentivize adding density to affordable housing projects by reducing building costs for developers. Walsh also called for the creation of a home-buying portal in conjunction with Cambridge Financial, as well as technical assistance program with the Greater Boston Community Land Trust Network to set up trusts for housing preservation.

The Housing Innovation Lab is a collaboration between Walsh’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Department of Neighborhood Development, funded through a three-year, $1.35 million Bloomberg Philanthropies innovation grant.

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Yet another property in Somerville is making a bid for the record of most expensive home ever sold in New England’s most densely populated municipality.

The 3,300-square-foot, nine-room Queen Anne located at 63 College Avenue in Davis Square, previously listed for $1,690,000, is apparently under contract, reports Curbed’s Tom Acitelli. The slightest jump in price could propel 63 College Avenue past the reigning champion, 32 Foskett Street, which sold for $1,725,000 last April.

Of course, both could be blown away by Unit 5 at 1 Summer Street in Union Square, whose four bedrooms, 60-foot ceilings, and two stories of wine storage is listed for $2,950,000.

Notice something changing in your neighborhood? Let me know:, @KyleClauss.