Urban Land Institute Day One: Governors, Heroes and Construction Costs

The Urban Land Institute’s Housing Opportunity conference is in Boston this week, replete with important sessions on housing affordability, construction, design and how housing relates to community health. Each session will get its own post this week, but today must be content with the first day’s summary.

The conference began with breakfast at 7:30 at the Boston Marriott Copley Hotel in Back Bay, but the main event was the lunch session with Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker and Theaster Gates.

Baker talked about the Open for Business program, which transfers state-owned land to developers who built affordable housing. He also said that in his upcoming five year capital plan he will devote $1.1 billion for housing production and preservation.

“Our economic plan recognizes the importance of housing,” he said.

Gates, an artist from Chicago, talked about how cultural investments can help add value to areas that don’t attract a lot of investment. He’s from the South Side, a neighborhood mainly known around the country for its violence, but he’s worked with the City of Chicago and private investors to help rehabilitate abandonded properties for cultural uses.

Lisa Belkin, the author of Show Me a Hero, which was made into an HBO miniseries last year, talked about that story. The book and series describe the fierce opposition of white residents of Yonkers, New York, to the construction of 1000 units of subsidized housing in a middle class, white neighborhood after a federal judge found the city’s housing plan to be de facto segregation.

There were also panels on construction costs and inclusionary zoning on day one.

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