Boston’s Office Conversion Experiment

By: Krystal Etienne · May 07, 2024 · Reading Time: 2 minutes

Converting Offices

Boston is at the forefront of a new movement to convert vacant office buildings into affordable housing.

The newfound popularity of remote work means that office buildings across the country are sitting vacant. At the same time, rent prices have skyrocketed, thanks in part to a shortage of apartment units. Converting unused office space to apartment units may sound like the ideal solution for this problem — but it is easier said than done.

Boston’s PILOT Program

Many office buildings cannot be easily converted to housing thanks to their infrastructure and floor plans, or the cost of refurbishing may not be profitable for the developer. But Boston’s new program is hoping to change this.

In October 2023, Boston’s Downtown Residential Conversion Incentive PILOT Program went live. The program intends to make it more economical for real estate developers to convert commercial buildings into housing, effectively offering a tax discount of up to 75%, with the stipulation that at least 20% of the new units must be affordable.

So far, the incentive program has attracted seven real estate developers and officials expect it to add as many as 500 new apartments to downtown Boston.

Ground Zero

Cities and developers across the country will be watching Boston’s PILOT program closely. Chicago, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C. have already launched similar initiatives, and there are efforts to create a comparable program at the federal level.

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