Boston’s first ‘Housing Innovation Lab’ gets $1.35 million to rethink affordable housing

City Hall plaza. (Photo: Globe file)
City Hall plaza. (Photo: Globe file)

The City of Boston will receive $1.35 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies to fund the development of a Housing Innovation Lab, and take an affordable housing project from proposal to reality, the group announced today.

Boston is one of 12 cities, including Seattle, Syracuse, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J., that made the shortlist and will be funded by Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic arm.

In Boston, the grant will assist Mayor Martin Walsh’s plan to increase available affordable housing in Greater Boston. The Boston2030 plan, announced in October, seeks to expand Boston housing to accommodate 53,000 new housing units for senior citizens and working people in the city.

The goal is for the city’s innovation sector to be a key collaborator. “Potential partners surround us, from local architects to world-leading colleges and universities,” Walsh said in a release. “The Housing Innovation Lab will help us strengthen these partnerships and create new ones to help us solve Boston’s housing challenges.”

Partner groups have not yet been identified, but “preliminary conversations” have begun. “The door is certainly open to interested parties who want to be a part of the lab,” said Nigel Jacob, co-chair at the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.

A key element of these “Innovation Team” projects is a data-driven approach to tackling an urban problem. The city will receive $450,000 annually over three years.

This is the second round of city development funds that Bloomberg has awarded. Chicago, which like Boston has built a reputation for creatively deploying public civic data, was among five cities that received a founding grant in 2011.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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