BOSTON

Federal COVID Funds to Help Mayor Wu's Agenda

Wu is pushing for a transfer fee on real estate transactions over $2 million that she said would help fund affordable housing after the federal money is gone

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In many ways, the city of Boston is already subsidizing rent control.

Mayor Michelle Wu is moving forward on controversial rent stabilization -- another part of her progressive agenda, including free bus service, affordable housing and climate resiliency projects that are starting to happen despite her opponents claims that she’d never be able to pay for it.  

"I see her being able to say, look, this is what I promised and this is what I’m delivering on," Suffolk University Professor Rachel Cobb said.

Wu has been able to deliver in large part thanks to the American Rescue Plan and the hundreds of millions of federal dollars it has brought to the city. The administration sees the money as an opportunity -- not just to patch the holes created by COVID.

"But also to look at how do we take this one time money and do things differently so we can demonstrate and use them as models for how to move forward," Boston Housing Chief Sheila Dillon said.

"I think one of the big concerns is, OK, but what happens when the money runs out? Now you have this fiscal cliff that you’re going to have to jump over," Cobb said.

Wu sees the money as an investment into what she hopes will pay dividends in other ways. And Wu knows that Boston is able to make these investments that other major cities can not afford.

"We are a city that is built on sound financial management over many years," Wu said.

Wu said the city has prioritized paying down long-term debt and relies on property taxes to fund the budget - making the city less reliant on sources of income that can fluctuate like the sales tax. 

"We are very lucky in Boston," Wu said. "It also means that we need to be very intentional about how we identify sources for sustainable revenue moving forward as well."

Wu is pushing for a transfer fee on real estate transactions over $2 million that she said would help fund affordable housing after the federal money is gone. 

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