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BOSTON-The Boston Redevelopment Authority has agreed to meet with members of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board to discuss a proposal that will more than double opt-out fees for developers who want to bypass the city’s mandated affordable housing quotas. The meeting comes after developers complained to the city that they were “blindsided” by an announcement earlier this week by Mayor Thomas Menino that he plans to increase the fees from $97,000 to $200,000 per affordable unit.

“We would very much like to talk to the BRA about this proposal. We want to fully understand what is on the table,” Gregory Vasil, chief executive officer of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, tells GlobeSt.com. A city ordinance requires residential builders to make 15% of all new rental and condo units in the city affordable. If they choose not to do so, they must pay an opt-out fee. Under the new proposal, money from those fees would go into a pool to build affordable housing elsewhere in the city.

The proposal caught some developers by surprise. It comes two years after Menino increased opt-out fees from $57,000 per affordable unit. “This caught us by surprise because there was no communication with anyone in the development community. We were totally blindsided by this,” one developer, who requested anonymity, tells GlobeSt.com.

A BRA spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com that the city worked with a small number of individuals from the private sector to come up with the policy. Tom Meagher, with Northeast Housing Advisors, criticized the increased fee structure, saying the $200,000 fees could have a detrimental effect on the affordable housing stock by forcing some residential builders to look outside of Boston for development projects.

“How are you going to grow housing production when you tell people it will cost more to build here than it will cost to build across the river,” Meagher tells GlobeSt.com. “Public policy is saying, don’t build housing, build commercial.”

The BRA spokeswoman says several upscale developers have voiced support of the plan. In fact, she tells GlobeSt.com that a number of luxury builders have even asked to pay above the current fee to get out of creating affordable units in luxury buildings because they would lose more money if units are sold at affordable rates. “You have to remember, this is an optional policy. It is not something they are required to do.”

For affordable housing advocate Joe Kriesberg, president of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corp., the fee hike just makes sense. “It’s really not a good use of resources to spend $800,000 or $900,000 to create one [affordable] unit in luxury housing when you can build two or three or four units of affordable housing elsewhere, sometimes half a mile away. He adds that this is “a good change in the policy and one that is going to allow the city to produce more affordable housing for more people and a more diverse group of people.”

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