Boston’s Young Professionals Talk Housing at #HUBisHome Party

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Former Boston City Councilor Mike Ross played the role of #HUBisHome master of ceremonies. Ross called the event part “housing policy discussion and part Alice in Wonderland.’’
Former Boston City Councilor Mike Ross played the role of #HUBisHome master of ceremonies. Ross called the event part “housing policy discussion and part Alice in Wonderland.’’ Sanjay Salomon/ Staff

On Sunday, over 100 people gathered at District Hall in the Boston Innovation District for the #HUBisHome House Party. The event, organized by the ONEin3 Council, was a forum to talk about the many obstacles young professionals encounter with city’s expensive housing market

The ONEin3 council is a group organized by the Boston Mayor’s Office and funded by the Boston Redevelopment Authority that works to connect the city’s working professionals with housing, professional development, and civic engagement resources. According to the group’s website, one-third of Boston’s population is between the ages of 20 and 34 (hence the namesake, in case you missed it!).

Former Boston city councilor Mike Ross took on the role of master of ceremonies for the event while speakers from various sectors of the Boston housing market discussed a host of issues. Ross kicked things off by describing the #HUBisHome event as part “housing policy discussion and part Alice in Wonderland.’’ Ultimately, Ross told the crowd that the goal of the meeting was to teach attendees how to fish (it’s an analogy, he clarified).

First to take the floor for speaking were Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson and Lisa Pollack of the Department of Neighborhood Development. The pair spoke about gentrification in many Boston neighborhoods. Pollack revealed that she herself has been “priced out’’ of Jamaica Plain since 2001.

“Boston is a victim of its own success,’’ she says. “People want to stay here. Families stay for the schools.’’ The downside of this pattern is there are fewer housing units available to rent or buy, she said.

Meanwhile, Jackson said the city needs at least 90,000 housing units. An expedited permitting system would be key to accomplishing this goal, he said.

Strangely, thinking small was one of the more interesting approaches to addressing Boston’s enormous housing demand. Among the more innovative ideas presented at the gathering was the push for more micro units from designer Aeron Hodges of architectural design firm ADD Inc. The firm’s micro unit studios can be as tiny as 300 square feet and include storage, a small kitchen area, bathroom, and sleeping area.

Hodges says her tiny apartment designs have been well-received among both young people who don’t want to pay for too much space and older people who are looking to downsize. Hodges says a proposal to build 1.4 million micro units in the city could drastically reduce rental costs, but first the city needs to lift size regulations for these developments.

Attendees also learned about energy-efficient homes, the sometimes sluggish pace of buying a home, mortgages, and advice on buying a first home at the right price. Arthur Jemison, deputy undersecretary of the state Department of Housing and Community Development, wrapped up the speaking events by talking about the state’s push to broaden transportation access and job opportunities for Boston communities along the Fairmont Line – including Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester.

The event also included a game area, a raffle with prizes from Massage Envy and Fire + Ice, and even a five-person dance party.

As the event winded down, Ross told that the city has a lot to do to in order to make the housing market easier for young people.

“[These ideas] require City Hall to act,’’ says Ross. “Lifting regulations, easier permitting, more micro-housing all require action from city government. Today’s gathering was a think-tank session for these ideas.’’