Boston: New Affordable Housing Funding . . Or Very Old?

A view across the harbour of downtown Boston, Massachusetts
Massachusetts - Boston - Waterfront - sunrise photo by Harshil Shah is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
How many large Boston businesses contribute directly to their employees' affordable housing? Can we safely guess 'none'?

Riffing off the widely publicized ‘gifts’ from California tech companies, Boston’s Mayor Walsh is calling for a new affordable funding stream from local businesses. Read more in the Boston Globe: Walsh Wants Major Companies To Help Finance Affordable Housing

But can we for a moment escape from the forelock tugging, hat in hand gratefulness for tech company benevolence?1 Is there really anything new at all about businesses funding affordable housing?

The most clearcut examples of business responsibility for employee housing comes from the resource extraction sector. Company towns do not bestow housing on their employees as a benevolence, but as a cost of doing business in some housing-poor corner of the universe.

What’s happened to focus attention on company responsibility in modern cities, rather than the backwoods or some remote mountain top?

Housing poverty has arrived in cities everywhere, and with it what should be a clear need for businesses to pay for a fair share of essential employee housing — not to disguise it as an orgy of self-serving company ‘gifting’. The necessities facing a company town can provide a new perspective when applied to a ‘downtown wilderness’ as opposed to the true outback. Try: Mountain View, CA: Hardship Posting For Teachers Plays ‘Company Town’ and/or Miami Schools: A ‘Company Town’ Solution For Unaffordable Housing?

As for . . . begging? . . . encouraging? . . . companies to take a share of responsibility for housing their employees, San Francisco currently offers one example of taking the bull by the horns, enforcing company responsibility by law. Read more in MISSION LOCAL: Proposition E, Barring Unforeseen Lunacy, Will Pass — Handily. But Then What?

Businesses cornered by cities into paying a fair share for employee housing may find that their horizons expand. If a company is paying a great deal to house employees in the middle of an expensive city, there’s always the option of going elsewhere cheaper, and saving on employee housing while offering them a walk-to-work future. Win-win all around? Try: New Zealand Employee Affordable Housing Supplied By An Unusual Company Town


  1. Is it a benevolence or a responsibility? Try: An Affordable Pox On All Your Tech Industry Charitable Housing