Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Boston Mayor Gives Annual Dunlop Lecture

by David Luberoff
Senior Associate Director
In a more two-decade career that began in the construction trades and now brings him into a host of debates about federal policies, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh says he’s “learned a lot about housing: how it gets built, the role it plays in working people’s lives, and the role it plays in community development.”

Walsh, who gave the Joint Center’s 17th Annual John T. Dunlop Lecture on March 20th before more than 300 people at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, hailed the fact that, in positions that included serving as dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and as U.S. Secretary of Labor, John Dunlop “spent his career bringing together academics, government officials, workers, and labor leaders to better understand our shared challenges.” Such collaboration, “is something we could use more of today,” noted Walsh, who added, “I’ve found that kind of dialogue and collaboration to be invaluable throughout my career,” particularly when it comes to housing.

Walsh, who emerged from a crowded field to win Boston’s mayoral race in 2013, said that upon taking office, “one of the first things I confronted was what more and more people were calling a housing crisis. Rents and home prices were rising beyond middle-class, working-class, and low-income people’s budgets.”  Addressing those challenges, he said, not only required setting and achieving ambitious goals, such as building more than 50,000 additional housing units by 2030, but also doing so in ways that go beyond “simply matching housing units to the population, or meeting market-driven demand.”

Rather, he said, “the challenge is to embrace our success as a city while retaining the core values that got us here. Those values center on inclusiveness, on opportunity, on social and economic diversity. We are a community that welcomes all and leaves no one behind. These aren’t just ideals. They are pragmatic needs.” The mayor, who also spoke about city initiatives to provide more housing, reduce homelessness, and address evictions, added that those efforts further highlight “the role of housing not just in community development but also in human development.”

Turning to current debates about the federal budget and other federal policies, Walsh said the Trump administration’s recent budget proposals and other federal initiatives are “an effort to end the system of federal partnerships that date to the New Deal and Great Society commitments of the 1930s [and] the 1960s.”  Left unchecked, he said, such policies would exacerbate the already significant problem of economic inequality in Boston.  Therefore, he added, he and other mayors are actively trying “to educate people on the impacts of inequality, and advocate for solutions” such as “health care; paid family leave and affordable daycare; strong labor laws and fair tax laws; financial regulation; [and] infrastructure investments.”

While these are daunting challenges, the mayor said, “I’m still counseling confidence” because the work the city has done and continues to do puts Boston “in a good position to respond to this moment. Even if the funding arrangements we’ve built seem threatened, the relationships we’ve built are strong. They will produce new solutions and new ideas. They will bring new partners to the table.”  Those partners, he concluded, hopefully will include the many graduate and undergraduate students who attended the lecture. “We are going to need you in the years ahead,” said the mayor.

Watch Mayor Marty Walsh deliver the 2017 Dunlop Lecture.

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