Mayor Michelle Wu is looking to move the city toward banning gas hookups for new buildings — a significant change cheered by climate activists but jeered by real-estate pros who said it could hinder development.
Wu, joined by pols, activists and a remarkably large farm dog in front of City Hall on Tuesday, rolled out the proposal, which technically would be a home-rule petition that would have to be passed by the council and then Beacon Hill in order to give the city the option of opting into a new state program to limit natural-gas hookups.
“We need a policy that will provide cleaner air, lower energy costs, less carbon emissions, a better quality of life and so much more in terms of the possibility and potential for our residents,” Wu said, noting that some new buildings such as the Boston Arts Academy that’s soon to open in Fenway already are built like this.
The specifics would still need to be worked out, including what the limitations would be and what types of building the rules would cover.
Locally, municipalities including Brookline and Cambridge have implemented similar bans. Wu’s office cited other major cities including New York City and Seattle in taking similar steps.
Several of the parade of speakers characteristic to a Wu press conference looked to get ahead of the criticism that these requirements will cost people money and stifle development.
“We’ve been successful,” Patrick Haydon of the Haycon construction company, said of building “all-electric” buildings. “It works.”
Others, however, were less thrilled, including the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, which said it’s “deeply concerned” by this idea.
“Construction costs are already too high due to inflation and national supply chain challenges,” CEO Greg Vasil said in a statement. “Banning fossil fuels in new developments will only increase costs further. This ban would be especially problematic in a city like Boston, which produces huge levels of housing and is an economic engine for all development. Housing production is key to overcoming our state’s housing crisis.”
Wu, asked whether there will be tension between building housing and implementing the ban, said, “Nope. We’re going to accomplish all of these goals together. And in fact, making our new housing healthy for residents to live in, cheaper for them to live in because you don’t need to pay for utility costs that will attract even more families to be able to stay and afford to live in the city of Boston.”
BOSTON, MA – August 16: Mayor Wu pets Silva – the Eastie Farm Donkey, who is actually an Irish Wolf Hound as Boston Mayor Wu introduces Climate related Legislation in City Hall Plaza on August 16, 2022 in , BOSTON, MA. (Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)