General Boston Discussion

shmessy

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My younger son lives in Baltimore and always tells me it is terrible there with rampant crime.
I'm now in Montgomery County, closer to DC, but lived the late '80's-early 90's in Catonsville (basically SW Baltimore). It was a lost cause then and has only fallen further since. Very sad, because on my urban hikes around the city, it was stunning how glorious its late 1800's to early 1900's past was. It's a poignant study in urban archeology.
 

Justbuildit

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Wu is proposing pretty large changes to Boston’s inclusionary zoning policy. Would kick in at 7 units instead of 10 and 20% of units would need to be affordable instead of 13%.

https://www.bostonplans.org/projects/standards/inclusionary-development-policy

Good. Whatever you think of her politics, this is the right way to address both the need for more housing and soften the brutal market dynamics of high regional costs in the immediate term. The lower threshold of 7 units is also really smart, as I keep seeing quite a few 7/8/9 unit multifamily projects on infill lots when there plausibly could be capacity for more.

Pairing this with streamlined permitting and knocking off parking minimums across the board would be really solid progress.
 

jklo

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Charlie_mta

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This is an interesting long-form article focused on the nature and purpose of public housing the US generally with a focus on the Cambridge Housing Authority specifically. Learned a lot about the CHA reading it!

Wow, that is a find. I grew up in Jefferson Park (the "extension" part of it shown in the slides), and it was mainly for veterans when it opened in the early 1950's. By the time we moved out in 1966 it had physically deteriorated from vandalism. It continued to go way, way downhill until it was finally reconstructed in the 1980s. I'm still a bit angry at CHA for allowing it to deteriorate so far to the bottom before it was rebuilt in the 80s. But at least CHA seems to have its act together a lot better now.
 

393b40

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Only going to make market rate units that much more expensive... and might be enough to discourage developers from bothering.
This was my first thought. If you make the math too difficult for developers, they'll just go build elsewhere.
 

Justbuildit

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Which is why you pair the increased obligations with reduced burden. Modest upzoning would allow for more units and therefore a better return for the same piece of land. Eliminating off street parking will also do a ton to lower the costs of construction. The goal is more housing, so I hope there are other zoning adjustments paired here. Also, in a 12 unit development it would mean 3 instead of 2 affordable units.

Imputed construction costs in an over regulated city such as additional staircases and obligatory parking garages are the hidden killers. Labor and land in Boston will always be expensive, so find ways to reduce the costs elsewhere.
 

king_vibe

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Which is why you pair the increased obligations with reduced burden. Modest upzoning would allow for more units and therefore a better return for the same piece of land. Eliminating off street parking will also do a ton to lower the costs of construction. The goal is more housing, so I hope there are other zoning adjustments paired here. Also, in a 12 unit development it would mean 3 instead of 2 affordable units.

Imputed construction costs in an over regulated city such as additional staircases and obligatory parking garages are the hidden killers. Labor and land in Boston will always be expensive, so find ways to reduce the costs elsewhere.
Hasn’t Wu already eliminated onerous parking requirements for affordable projects?
 

Justbuildit

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DBM

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Don’t know if it’s been shared here before, but I was surprised to see ads for the Boston ballet projected onto Symphony Plaza West:
Is it that surprising, though? The Ballet has their studio just three-quarters of a mile away, at 19 Clarendon, so in that sense the Back Bay is just as much the BB's "home base" as DTX is with their tenancy at the Opera House. And, I looked it up, Symphony Plaza West is owned by an affordable-housing firm... assuming they are always scrounging for additional revenue streams, if federal funding for their "deeply affordable" units (30% of income per their website) is always at (or perceived to be at) risk, then, isn't this exactly the sort of thing they're supposed to be doing, being opportunistic in support of their admirable (if not heroic) mission?
 

Blackbird

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The surprising part to me is just the fact that it’s a projector-based ad tbh. I haven’t seen many similar ones. Usually you’d have a billboard or led screen or something.
 
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DBM

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The surprising part to me is just the fact that it’s a projector-based ad tbh. I haven’t seen many similar ones. Usually you’d have a billboard or led screen or something.
Ah, yes, thanks for supplying the context--agreed!
 

SuffolkHeights11

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Which is why you pair the increased obligations with reduced burden. Modest upzoning would allow for more units and therefore a better return for the same piece of land. Eliminating off street parking will also do a ton to lower the costs of construction. The goal is more housing, so I hope there are other zoning adjustments paired here. Also, in a 12 unit development it would mean 3 instead of 2 affordable units.

Imputed construction costs in an over regulated city such as additional staircases and obligatory parking garages are the hidden killers. Labor and land in Boston will always be expensive, so find ways to reduce the costs elsewhere.
100%. What happens when the community is against all of this?
 

Justbuildit

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100%. What happens when the community is against all of this?
Agree with Scott. The good news is that Healey is at least saying all/most of the right things here. In my opinion it should go further and the Commonwealth should have unilateral final decision making on all zoning proposals with the Builder’s Remedy being the final cudgel for intransigent noncompliance, but that’s fantasy at the moment.

She explained that her administration would prioritize driving new housing production around the state. Healey called it a "critical point" in the state's competitiveness.

Strategies would include investing in the preservation and rehabilitation of existing housing stock while also incentivizing communities to improve zoning procedures and boost production.

"Rents are out of reach for so many people, and the ability to purchase homes is so difficult right now, so we are about driving production around the state. Through a secretary of housing, through more dense housing, particularly around our transportation hubs. we're also going to look at state public lands and how they can be converted to housing, and we're committed to streamlining the process for permitting so we can actually help developers create the housing that we need all across the state."


I’d also encourage anyone reading this to join a local IAG or neighborhood group and be a bully about this stuff. NIMBYs or others with status quo bias are by no means the majority, but they do the least by showing up and making noise. Even a few people serving as counterweights, especially younger people who are totally apathetic to the policy levers here, would be great to see.
 

Scott

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Well I agree and disagree with that. Yes people should get more involved in general. This is something that comes up from time to time and eventually it comes down to people going to meetings and such instead of just going on and on about NIMBY's here. Personally, I see no great conspiracy that justifies some of the more drastic actions being discussed here. No matter who gets put in charge they will never have unfettered power under the law and they will probably just f*** it up, they always do and there is historic precedent to that. It's clear the problem is caused by the city's success and that it can be fixed within the law just like the water supply via the MWRA, the Big Dig, the new convention center, and any other physical hurdle to this great future that the city has faced in our lifetime.
 

Justbuildit

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Agree that there are neither conspiracies nor magic bullets to fix things. I’m a very reasonable person but radical in a few ways, especially around zoning (and realize those ideas will never come to pass). I’m running on two simple principles:

1. Some candidates/policies are more favorable than others
2. The actual effort to shift the balance in meaningful ways is relatively small, especially in a place like Boston where true partisan politics are nonexistent (yay one party rule?)
 

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