Idea for fixing the housing shortage

DominusNovus

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- My comment re: Houston was not about whether we should follow their development policies, just that it would solve this problem.
- Suburbanism is just as much an anomaly as everything else in our industrial society.

Anyway, I’m going to do whatever anyone does in these sotuations: say my preferred solution is the obvious answer and curall: build a solid regional rail network by upgrading the commuter rail system, and encourage outlying towns to build up - maybe even just have the T lease out their park and ride lots to build TOD (keep the number of parking spaces in these lots available to commuters constant with parking garages).
 
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jklo

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They're looking for labor with a specific (expensive) skill set.
For cheap, hence College Kids. Boston of course has no shortage of those. That's Boston's big advantage, along with a subway system with a wide reach even if it is rather crappy. Millennials/College Kids aren't going to want/be able to afford a car so they absolutely need to be within the reach of the subway.

Keeping them happy is the key to Boston's future; even if it means screwing over other groups.

You could throw in foreigners on workers visa (like H1-B) into that group too. Which is companies other love. The workers aren't going to be wanting to drive here.
 

fattony

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For cheap, hence College Kids. Boston of course has no shortage of those. That's Boston's big advantage, along with a subway system with a wide reach even if it is rather crappy. Millennials/College Kids aren't going to want/be able to afford a car so they absolutely need to be within the reach of the subway.

Keeping them happy is the key to Boston's future; even if it means screwing over other groups.

You could throw in foreigners on workers visa (like H1-B) into that group too. Which is companies other love. The workers aren't going to be wanting to drive here.
I don't know where you are getting this stuff. It doesn't even make sense. "Cheap" salaries are not driving our housing prices to the moon, high salaries are.
 

HalcyonEra

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I don't know where you are getting this stuff. It doesn't even make sense. "Cheap" salaries are not driving our housing prices to the moon, high salaries are.
That's a chicken-egg argument. You can just as well state that our salaries are higher due to the high cost of living. Throw in basic economic supply-demand theory and there you have your housing cost paradigm. It's all relative. Of course the lower end of the spectrum gets screwed but public policy not keeping up with market trends is true culprit.

I sat on a zoning board that faced a few 40B projects and it was staggering to me who were the true nimby zealots. They are usually the biggest hypocrites one can image. I always asked where they lived and how the project would affect them which really pissed them off. And aside from the legitimate abutters, they always failed and stumbled through their degradation of the community lecture. They were always the same cast of characters that were heavily involved in the local political committees. Which side of the aisle doesn't pertain to this argument either.

I truly believe that term limits on all political offices is the only way to reduce the nimbyism. For way too long an extreme vocal minority has had undue influence over policy. As a society we have allowed this to happen as even though the majority understand that there are severe issues, they are either too apoplectic or simply too busy to devle into the issues other than voting along their perceived party lines. Would these types still be influential? Yes, but it would be greatly diminished once they have to deal with different folks every few elections rather than the usual suspects.
 

Jouhou

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That's a chicken-egg argument. You can just as well state that our salaries are higher due to the high cost of living. Throw in basic economic supply-demand theory and there you have your housing cost paradigm. It's all relative. Of course the lower end of the spectrum gets screwed but public policy not keeping up with market trends is true culprit.

I sat on a zoning board that faced a few 40B projects and it was staggering to me who were the true nimby zealots. They are usually the biggest hypocrites one can image. I always asked where they lived and how the project would affect them which really pissed them off. And aside from the legitimate abutters, they always failed and stumbled through their degradation of the community lecture. They were always the same cast of characters that were heavily involved in the local political committees. Which side of the aisle doesn't pertain to this argument either.

I truly believe that term limits on all political offices is the only way to reduce the nimbyism. For way too long an extreme vocal minority has had undue influence over policy. As a society we have allowed this to happen as even though the majority understand that there are severe issues, they are either too apoplectic or simply too busy to devle into the issues other than voting along their perceived party lines. Would these types still be influential? Yes, but it would be greatly diminished once they have to deal with different folks every few elections rather than the usual suspects.
I've made sure to rebuke local politicians who back nimbyism in regards to residential development. Especially "this isn't a partisan issue, but you are certainly pissing off your constituents who rent and are feeling the squeeze"

It's land owners vs renters it seems. Old vs young. Like they'll say they don't want to accommodate outsiders but it's the outsiders who are pricing out young locals who don't own yet.
 

TheRifleman

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Fixing the housing shortage? We can't even knock down Harbor Garage but you want to fix the housing shortage.

#1 BUILD as high as you can in the core of the city along rapid transit.
#2 Build and expand rapid transit as far as possible.
2 simple solutions that our local and state politicians can't even process.

So how can you even process fixing the housing shortage when it has taken 10 years to even consider building more housing in the core of the city.
 

HalcyonEra

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I've made sure to rebuke local politicians who back nimbyism in regards to residential development. Especially "this isn't a partisan issue, but you are certainly pissing off your constituents who rent and are feeling the squeeze"

It's land owners vs renters it seems. Old vs young. Like they'll say they don't want to accommodate outsiders but it's the outsiders who are pricing out young locals who don't own yet.
I'm not even sure it is old v. young as much as it is established vs. not. It's not only money driven, although we have tremendous old money around here. Look at who came out in force against Kraft when he wanted to put the stadium in the Seaport. Hell, Ned Flannery was the leader of bringing down Columbus Center, and from what I understand doesn't even live there anymore. Too much power in too few hands, driven by personal agendas to protect their turf and keep the status quo.
 

HalcyonEra

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Fixing the housing shortage? We can't even knock down Harbor Garage but you want to fix the housing shortage.

#1 BUILD as high as you can in the core of the city along rapid transit.
#2 Build and expand rapid transit as far as possible.
2 simple solutions that our local and state politicians can't even process.

So how can you even process fixing the housing shortage when it has taken 10 years to even consider building more housing in the core of the city.
Not to go all O here, but in a city of tall buildings, I've never understand the difference between 700 feet vs 400 feet or what shaving a few stories any development accomplishes.
 

TheRifleman

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^^^^
Those two logical solutions would also help the Traffic Gridlock going on.
There is not two many places to build in Boston. I actually could see major developments possibly near the Casino in the future.
 

tangent

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I think it is fair to say the experiment with low-density communities has just about run its course and we've seen the outcome. Remember the American suburb is an anomaly compared to most of the rest of the world and an anomaly in the course of human history. Whether you like it or not, there ARE benefits to businesses co-locating and businesses are not going to reverse that course anytime soon. Good jobs clump together into good job-markets. There is a critical mass threshold that makes the difference between Anywhere USA (which may have good jobs and sustains a middle class community) and the few areas that are economic powerhouses. Of course, there are a few exceptions that prove the rule like Los Alamos or Huntsville, where an external force like the government creates an isolated nexus of powerhouse jobs.

My argument against your position is that the primo metros that are increasing density aren't all that dense to begin with. The densities of places like Paris and New York are 4-5 TIMES the density of Boston or San Fran or DC. We aren't exactly going to extreme of what is reasonably possible by increasing population by a few percentage points. We are trying to build a metro area that absorbs the demand to work here and simultaneously supports a sustainable development pattern based on a high percentage of transit users. I don't think that is too much to ask and I don't think it unreasonable.

I truly believe there is a stable, sustainable population density for Greater Boston and that indefinite growth is not going to happen. However, I truly believe that we are nowhere near that point yet and that growth can and will continue unabated for decades to come.
Your analysis is completely backwards. Only during the 20th century did we see the flare up of the types of mega cities we see today. Most of human history involves the "big cities" being smaller than today's Worcester or Lynn. If anything the unproven experiment is whether these mega cities can sustain high quality of life without significant periods of decline. The experience of decline during the 20th century suggests that there are boom bust cycles for most cities that make cities very unreliable over 50 to 100 year periods.
 

bakgwailo

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Your analysis is completely backwards. Only during the 20th century did we see the flare up of the types of mega cities we see today. Most of human history involves the "big cities" being smaller than today's Worcester or Lynn. If anything the unproven experiment is whether these mega cities can sustain high quality of life without significant periods of decline. The experience of decline during the 20th century suggests that there are boom bust cycles for most cities that make cities very unreliable over 50 to 100 year periods.
What? Rome had a population of ~400k in the 2nd century BC, spiking into a million in the first century AD. It then obviously collapsed with the collapse of the Empire. London hasn't had less 200k inhabitants since the 1600s. Maybe going back to the 300-400 BC + timeline you are starting to see cities max out around Worcester size, but, you also need to keep in mind that the overall population at that time was orders of magnitude smaller than it is now. Throughout history and society, humans have always grouped together into cities/geographic areas.

As a quick reference : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_cities_throughout_history
 

DominusNovus

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What? Rome had a population of ~400k in the 2nd century BC, spiking into a million in the first century AD. It then obviously collapsed with the collapse of the Empire. London hasn't had less 200k inhabitants since the 1600s. Maybe going back to the 300-400 BC + timeline you are starting to see cities max out around Worcester size, but, you also need to keep in mind that the overall population at that time was orders of magnitude smaller than it is now. Throughout history and society, humans have always grouped together into cities/geographic areas.

As a quick reference : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_cities_throughout_history
You can’t rely on the populations of the largest cities throughout history, as those cities are, by definition, superlative. Should we evaluate modern development by the standarda of the mega-cities that dot Asia?

A far better comparison would be the percent living in urban or rural areas, as rural areas are, by definition, more dispersed. For the US, we didn’t hit 50% urban until 1920.
 

Rover

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Interesting discussion. A few thoughts:

I really wish people would ditch the "it'd be great if we could get business to move to Buffalo/Toledo/Baltimore/etc". That's just not reality and you have a better chance of seeing God than that happening. In reality jobs and wealth will continue to consolidate in the same dozen or so mostly coastal cities.

Having said that I'd say there's two solutions. One is to have a robust transit connection to nearby satellite cities (in Boston's case Quincy, Waltham, Lynn, and out to Worcester) where people can experience urban living in a cheaper place that should be a quick commute in and out of downtown. In a city, as opposed to snobby NIMBY infested towns you can build more multiple dwelling housing. Anybody waiting for Concord to help solve the housing shortage is in for a long wait.

The 2nd which is a little more out there would be for the city of Boston to build and manage its own below market rate apartments on surplus city owned land. For example, Boston is trying to sell the land that the tow lot sits on. Instead of doing that, city could construct 5,000 (random #) rental apartments managed by BHA. It could rent them at below market rates to help absorb new residents and tamp down rental increases in the city. These apartments would have much higher income thresholds than the normal affordable housing requirements. Now obviously it would need more than that to make a sustained dent but it could make a small difference.
 

bakgwailo

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You can’t rely on the populations of the largest cities throughout history, as those cities are, by definition, superlative. Should we evaluate modern development by the standarda of the mega-cities that dot Asia?

A far better comparison would be the percent living in urban or rural areas, as rural areas are, by definition, more dispersed. For the US, we didn’t hit 50% urban until 1920.
Again, I think it depends on the time period and civilization. Rome pushed hard for urbanization. As for the US - the original point was that the US is an outlier. Also, going to 1920 (and the US in general) is a blimp in time of human civilization. Society and people gravitate toward cities until bad things happen - black plague/disease, fall of a civilization, etc. I also don't see how it's not fair to compare the mega cities of old to the mega cities of today? I agree that looking at the urban vs rural spread is probably the way to do it, though. Just pointing out that it isn't a modern thing, or 20th century thing, that people flock to cities, nor were ancient cities the size of Lynn (which, again, isn't that bad in the context of overall population being vastly smaller).
 
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jklo

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I don't know where you are getting this stuff. It doesn't even make sense. "Cheap" salaries are not driving our housing prices to the moon, high salaries are.
It is when you figure that you now have 2,3,4 combined incomes renting a given unit when it would have been 1 or 2 tops even 10 years ago.
 

DominusNovus

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Again, I think it depends on the time period and civilization. Rome pushed hard for urbanization. As for the US - the original point was that the US is an outlier. Also, going to 1920 (and the US in general) is a blimp in time of human civilization. Society and people gravitate toward cities until bad things happen - black plague/disease, fall of a civilization, etc. I also don't see how it's not fair to compare the mega cities of old to the mega cities of today? I agree that looking at the urban vs rural spread is probably the way to do it, though. Just pointing out that it isn't a modern thing, or 20th century thing, that people flock to cities, nor were ancient cities the size of Lynn (which, again, isn't that bad in the context of overall population being vastly smaller).
Exactly, going back to 1920 is a blip. For most of human history, by a vast margin, we lived in very dispersed settlements.

And its absolutely fair to compare mega-cities to other mega-cities, but not to draw general trends from them for society as a whole.
 

fattony

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It is when you figure that you now have 2,3,4 combined incomes renting a given unit when it would have been 1 or 2 tops even 10 years ago.
That is an interesting point and I think there is a lot to unpack there. Can we agree that home prices are paid by normal 1-2 income households? I’ve never heard of micro co-ops of 3 or more people buying 1 unit together.

On a long enough timescale, all housing is fungible. The market will push conversions from rental units to condos or vice versa if the two get too far out of balance. Anecdotally, I see a lot of renovations and condoizations in my neighborhood, nothing flowing the other way.
 

jklo

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That is an interesting point and I think there is a lot to unpack there. Can we agree that home prices are paid by normal 1-2 income households? I’ve never heard of micro co-ops of 3 or more people buying 1 unit together.
Yeah, I was specifically talking about renting. But of course if you can get higher rents (because the renter group has better purchasing power due to multiple incomes), that's only going to encourage hedge funds and the like to buy up housing to rent out.
 

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