Housing (Supply Crisis & Public Policy)

Blackbird

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I don't understand why they don't hate office space
Because new housing costs the town money, especially if a family moves in with kids that will go to the local public school.

On the other hand, office means Mr. Business contributing to the town’s income in the form of property or some other tax. And without any kind of share-the-wealth system (county government?), it ends up being every town for itself a lot of the time.

It’s why Somerville is spending so much energy trying to build labs since so far it’s built a ton of housing but for people who work in Boston/Cambridge. That’s a net loss for Somerville with how our local systems work. Another example is how the Revere section of Suffolk Downs had to have a commercial/lab development. Cuz the town needs the money more than neighboring Boston.
 

Jouhou

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Because new housing costs the town money, especially if a family moves in with kids that will go to the local public school.

On the other hand, office means Mr. Business contributing to the town’s income in the form of property or some other tax. And without any kind of share-the-wealth system (county government?), it ends up being every town for itself a lot of the time.

It’s why Somerville is spending so much energy trying to build labs since so far it’s built a ton of housing but for people who work in Boston/Cambridge. That’s a net loss for Somerville with how our local systems work. Another example is how the Revere section of Suffolk Downs had to have a commercial/lab development. Cuz the town needs the money more than neighboring Boston.
I live in NH (Portsmouth) and I am extremely frustrated - Residents and Businesses pay the property taxes all the same, there's no income tax. Meanwhile, for the past decade we've seen local restaurants close because low wage workers can't afford to live here to take those jobs. People just whine that people are too "lazy" to take those jobs instead of acknowledging that blocking every attempt at residential development whether it is "affordable" or "luxury" is a big part of what is going wrong.

I'm also rooting for Boston and surrounding communities to build more housing because that is also a part of our problem, people commute from here to Boston and so our prices look... very Boston.
 

KentXie

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Good luck. The shortage is compounded by large real estate investors buying up homes and charging exorbitant rates because renters have no other option as well as wealthy Americans and foreigners buying up real estate as second homes or to rent out on airbnb as passive income.

The US can't solve the housing crisis when there is money to be made off of it. Capitalism at its absolute worse
 

Justbuildit

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I would simply allow for the building of more rental units, then. There is absolutely a role for regulation/tax policy to prevent rogue investors buying up huge amounts of housing units, but far and away the main driver is the shortage in available units. Strongly recommend reading the linked article at the top, as it does a great job laying out all of these points.

To your last point, there is certainly a conflict between profit and providing housing for all, but you've got the villain wrong. NIMBYs (from anywhere on the spectrum) and local governments are the ones driving existing home prices through the roof by doing anything possible to prevent new units onto the market. Have you looked at single-family home prices in Brookline?! Let's take those capitalist pigs down a notch by removing their zoning decision-making powers and giving them to the Commonwealth. Allow for all Bay Staters to build their wealth by taking their first step on the property ladder, which after all has been the biggest driver of American wealth for generations.

(NB: longtime lurker, first time poster. It took a housing policy article to finally get me in...Love the site!)
 

Jouhou

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Good luck. The shortage is compounded by large real estate investors buying up homes and charging exorbitant rates because renters have no other option as well as wealthy Americans and foreigners buying up real estate as second homes or to rent out on airbnb as passive income.

The US can't solve the housing crisis when there is money to be made off of it. Capitalism at its absolute worse
As much as it doesn't help the shortage directly, maybe building more hotels would also help reduce the profitability of airbnb... Boston (combined with surrounded communities) has less than half as many hotel rooms as other cities of comparable significance in business and leisure travel. The area just sucks at having adequate inventory for human shelter in general. We had a housing crisis before it became nationwide, keep that in mind. I've been frustrated by it for nearly a decade now.

I would simply allow for the building of more rental units, then. There is absolutely a role for regulation/tax policy to prevent rogue investors buying up huge amounts of housing units, but far and away the main driver is the shortage in available units. Strongly recommend reading the linked article at the top, as it does a great job laying out all of these points.

To your last point, there is certainly a conflict between profit and providing housing for all, but you've got the villain wrong. NIMBYs (from anywhere on the spectrum) and local governments are the ones driving existing home prices through the roof by doing anything possible to prevent new units onto the market. Have you looked at single-family home prices in Brookline?! Let's take those capitalist pigs down a notch by removing their zoning decision-making powers and giving them to the Commonwealth. Allow for all Bay Staters to build their wealth by taking their first step on the property ladder, which after all has been the biggest driver of American wealth for generations.

(NB: longtime lurker, first time poster. It took a housing policy article to finally get me in...Love the site!)
Welcome! I'm just returning after a hiatus!
 

bigpicture7

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Welcome! I'm just returning after a hiatus!
Glad to have you back! I had noticed your absence for a while and was hoping you'd return. I'd always appreciated the Portsmouth / greater Boston comparative perspectives you shared.
 

Arlington

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@bigpicture7 suggested this thread merge and I agreed & did it. Feel free to discuss national policy even though it originated in the New England Public Policy subforum. It is a big field local-regional-national, supply-demand-pricing, social services & economic growth are all intertwined in housing.
 

Scott

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I was reading the above and noticed the point about the price of a single family home in Brookline. It's true but what is the solution in that specific place? Are we to lose the shoe for the want of a nail? Are we suggesting tearing down Brookline and other unique suburbs and building denser? When does Ipswich or Concord stop being unique? So yes NIMBY's are an issue but the problem is more complicated than just that
 

Aprehensive_Words

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It is, and there are whole financing and workforce training pieces that typically go unaddressed in these conversations, but if you allow single-family neighborhoods to densify, they will do so over time -- builders will buy up some of the lots and redevelop them or renovate/subdivide/add onto the big, old houses on them, instead of doing teardowns like most do now. Pair that with more liberalized zoning on commercial corridors/nodes that are still full of single-floor retail (looking at you, Washington Square), where larger parcels make it easier to develop larger buildings, you have the makings of housing abundance.

Or so the argument goes.
 

Blackbird

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I was reading the above and noticed the point about the price of a single family home in Brookline. It's true but what is the solution in that specific place? Are we suggesting tearing down Brookline...?
Here are some snips from Brookline's zoning by laws (the most up to date as far as I can tell).

Part 1.JPG


Part 2.JPG


Part 3.JPG


Part 4.JPG


Here's a map of the zoning districts: GIS---Zoning-Map---30x16-Grayscale-PDF (brooklinema.gov)

Lot Coverage.JPG


As you can see, there are sections of Brookline where single family homes need to sit on whole acre-sized lots with mandatory 35-foot front yards, 20-foot sides, and 50-foot back yards. There are restrictions on the widths of lots, the heights of homes, and the floor-to-area ratios of buildings that vary based on use and location.

Buildings over 100ft generally aren't allowed in Brookline and in cases where they are, decreasing % of the lot are allowed to be covered by the building which limits it actual utility.

When you have laws like this, of course you're going to have a hard time building new housing. No tearing down of anything would be necessary to add a significant amount of people to Brookline. All you'd have to do is loosen or scrap a few of these restrictions and BAM - housing. It wouldn't hurt the character of the city either. Likely what you'd see is more of southern and central Brookline looking like northern Brookline. Or perhaps the city would start resembling somewhere in Southern California where lot sizes for single family homes are generally very small but where towns/neighborhoods like the one shown still maintain the exclusivity and poshness that Brookline currently has.

And there's no reason why Concord and Ipswich can't follow suit. Ipswich even has a perfect example in its backyard of what picturesque density in a North Shore city can look like: Newburyport. If all of Concord and Ipswich were zoned to look more like Newburyport between High Street and the Merrimack (i.e. small lot sizes with small or nonexistent front yards), then those towns could add tons of houses while still remaining charming and quaint.

Heck, parts of Ipswich already look like that: 56 N Main St - Google Maps or 16 County St - Google Maps . Just make that kind of development standard across the entire town. And while you're at it, carve out similar neighborhoods in Hamilton, Topsfield, Boxford, etc.
 
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Justbuildit

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I'm glad my snarky, ironic riposte to KentXie's comment catalyzed this discussion. My original point was a rebuttal to the point that capitalism was to blame for the current housing situation not that we must upzone Brookline per se. Instead, the people who are the proximate beneficiaries of our current housing policies in places with high housing prices are existing owners who are so often NIMBYs, not developers (who, by definition, can't build anything). That being said...

Blackbird absolutely nailed it. It's not a question of going in and tearing down current housing stock, but allowing people who own their own property to build more kinds of housing that suits a variety of needs. Maybe these are developers, maybe these are nonprofits or churches, maybe these are families who want to build backyard units for their extended family. For central/Northern Brookline it is absurd to have any single-family zoning in an area that has mixed-use multi-family on the main streets (Beacon, Washington) and is served by excellent transit. No minimum lost sizes! Fourplexes by right! Minor nudge to FAR limits! Very small easy things to do that would create the conditions for abundance.

I'm not optimistic about suburbs or rich urban towns like Brookline, though, and which is why I care about (and live in) Boston. Parking minimums should be the first to go, and Wu should be slashing almost all regulations for office-to-residential conversions in the central business district. There is a ton of unused land and floor space in this city and we should be turning it over to as many humans as we can.
 

KentXie

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I'm glad my snarky, ironic riposte to KentXie's comment catalyzed this discussion. My original point was a rebuttal to the point that capitalism was to blame for the current housing situation not that we must upzone Brookline per se. Instead, the people who are the proximate beneficiaries of our current housing policies in places with high housing prices are existing owners who are so often NIMBYs, not developers (who, by definition, can't build anything). That being said...

Blackbird absolutely nailed it. It's not a question of going in and tearing down current housing stock, but allowing people who own their own property to build more kinds of housing that suits a variety of needs. Maybe these are developers, maybe these are nonprofits or churches, maybe these are families who want to build backyard units for their extended family. For central/Northern Brookline it is absurd to have any single-family zoning in an area that has mixed-use multi-family on the main streets (Beacon, Washington) and is served by excellent transit. No minimum lost sizes! Fourplexes by right! Minor nudge to FAR limits! Very small easy things to do that would create the conditions for abundance.

I'm not optimistic about suburbs or rich urban towns like Brookline, though, and which is why I care about (and live in) Boston. Parking minimums should be the first to go, and Wu should be slashing almost all regulations for office-to-residential conversions in the central business district. There is a ton of unused land and floor space in this city and we should be turning it over to as many humans as we can.
I didn't read it as snarky at all. That being said, I guess my question is how well suited are individual property owners to build and manage multi-family housing? An undertaking like that essentially means managing a new business for the property owner, some of which probably do not want to do so. Nonprofits and churches might be better suited but there's definitely a better economic of scale to have them managed by a real estate management firm if we are talking anything of a large scale cohesive densification.
 

jklo

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To me, the solution right now here is Roomates. And yes I'm quite aware there are people out there who refuse to get on board... which despite it's obvious flaws something like Chicago or Jersey City might be a better fit.
 

Justbuildit

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To me, the solution right now here is Roomates. And yes I'm quite aware there are people out there who refuse to get on board... which despite it's obvious flaws something like Chicago or Jersey City might be a better fit.
Respectfully,

“Learn to have roommates”:young urbanites::“Learn to code”:West Virginia coal miners

It is formally a solution but it ignores a whole host of solvable issues and feels a bit condescending. Let’s make life better for people!
 

kmp1284

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Respectfully,

“Learn to have roommates”:young urbanites::“Learn to code”:West Virginia coal miners

It is formally a solution but it ignores a whole host of solvable issues and feels a bit condescending. Let’s make life better for people!
Not sure we need to fundamentally alter the urban landscape for a small percentage of snowflakes who refuse to live with a roommate or two while starting their careers. Boston has always been a comparatively expensive city and people from all economic backgrounds have at some point had to share a place to make rent.
 

Justbuildit

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Not sure we need to fundamentally alter the urban landscape for a small percentage of snowflakes who refuse to live with a roommate or two while starting their careers. Boston has always been a comparatively expensive city and people from all economic backgrounds have at some point had to share a place to make rent.
Guys, housing crisis is solved. The woke snowflake soy-betas just need to bunk up and stop complaining. Mods, maybe we can even close this thread since we ran this to ground and the only group being affected is young students and 20-somethings.

The issue isn't whether or not people need roommates; indeed there are lots of room mates and there will continue to be even if more housing is built. The issue is whether the cascading effects of decades of bad housing policy are making life worse for everyone except for legacy homeowners who are pulling up the ladder behind them as they crawl towards late-middle age. I can't think of a better reason to fundamentally alter the urban landscape than to make room for people to live in Boston. In fact, that's what literally happened here several times over the past 400 years, razing the hills, and filling in the tidelands, Back Bay, and elsewhere to make room for those who wanted to come here.

I look forward to more nuanced housing policy discussions that touch the deep and varied issues that impact our region.
 

kmp1284

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There’s at most a crunch. The idea of a crisis is a fabrication of some far left socialist think tank. The problem is that people feel entitled to live in certain neighborhoods that they can’t afford to. Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roxbury, etc. are quite affordable but white professional victims are unwilling to live in those areas.
 
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jklo

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Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roxbury, etc. are quite affordable
Just based upon the real estate prices... that's not really true. If you had said Worcester or Springfield then perhaps, but obviously that's too far away.
 

Scott

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I grew up here and bought real estate when it was cheaper than now which sounds great. However I have a few problems, first my kid can't afford a house and I can't just sell mine to give him the hefty down payment needed to compete with people who will pay half a million dollars for one floor in a 3 decker. Also my tax bill is insane for what I get in return and is forever inching higher despite the favorable tax rate
 

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