Housing

jdrinboston

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I'm happy to explain my logic here... because it's data-driven.

According to available census data for the region (more data available here), the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) grew 7.0% between 2010 and 2019. While the MSA includes some 114 municipalities, the 2030 regional housing goal(s) were identified by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), which officially is 101 municipalities and does not extend to Worcester. So for argument's sake, lets say that the regional housing goal affects the 101 municipalities.

If 7.0% is the regional growth rate over the last 9 years, this means there are two camps of communities in our region: those that are housing more residents than the regional average, and those that are housing fewer residents than the regional average. Here's an imperfect list of the municipalities just inside Rt. 128 and how they stack up on this during that time period (numbers in bold are higher than regional average):

  • Revere - 2.5%
This is great data, but I have to admit this number shocked me. Revere has done a ton of building (and continues to do so) over the past 5 years and they only managed to grow 2.5%? Wow
 

George_Apley

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Accessory dwellings should be everywhere a thing (two kitchens, one deed, where one kitchen is in the owner occupied unit). Even if it is for "the help" or AirBnB it all serves to make more affordable units available.

Maybe we need a 40B.1 statewide mandate that if you're owner occupied, you're free to add a second kitchen and bath.

In Medford, many open houses I go to you can see that the owner made an "illegal" apartment (often in the basement of a big single family). The market and the homeowners clearly want such things to exist, and the neighbors have long acquiesced---but they get "undone" to pass the fire inspection at time of sale. You also see double-deckers that have an extra kitchen in the basement. This should be made (1) legal (2) safer (3) taxed.

I don't care if the unit is for "the nanny" or "the student" or Air BnB. They clearly could be quickly and universally called into existence. The only limit will be street parking (which is assumed to be free everywhere that isn't around Tufts)
This should absolutely be a reform that the state makes for all zoning. Also expanding the as-of-right options for building small-scale residential. At the very least two-families should be allowed basically everywhere.
 

Blackbird

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single 600'+ residential skyscraper in the United States that is 100% affordable housing
Great post, but a 600’ building wouldn’t need to be 100% affordable to have at least as many affordable units as a 100%150’ building.

I know that you’re intentionally exaggerating for the sake of point-making, but still...

I’ll add too that the HarborTowers are 400’ buildings that were originally built to be 100% affordable. 200’ short, I know, but much taller than the res buildings in CX.
 

dshoost88

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Great post, but a 600’ building wouldn’t need to be 100% affordable to have at least as many affordable units as a 100%150’ building.

I know that you’re intentionally exaggerating for the sake of point-making, but still...

I’ll add too that the HarborTowers are 400’ buildings that were originally built to be 100% affordable. 200’ short, I know, but much taller than the res buildings in CX.
Thanks. But to be clear, I am not exaggerating that point... there are actually posters on this forum who one post are saying/liking "we need affordable housing here" and either in the same post or one after it saying "they should've gone supertall here." My point is they need to pick one, because they can't have it both ways. Not without a radical shift in the way the United States finances and develops affordable housing through HUD (among other needs).

RE Harbor Towers... interesting choice example. They were constructed nearly 50 years ago, and without the protective covenants that conventional affordable housing features today. The listings at Harbor Towers today (per Zillow) range from $699,000 for a 750 sq. ft. 1-bed to $3M+, with most listings lingering near $1M. AND are you familiar with the Special Assessment to unit owners at Harbor Towers in 2007? Boston City Properties has a nice summary, but the short of it is that long-neglected maintenance needs for the building were assessed at a replacement cost of $75.6 million. "Bills for individual units ran between $70,000 and $400,000. Many residents literally couldn't afford to pay their share and were forced to sell and move out."

Not affordable.

Affordable housing financing is complicated... I took a graduate course exclusively on the topic. The devil is in the details, and--to Boston's credit--requiring on-site affordable housing minimums of 13% to 20% for new large developments has been one of the most sustainable and effective measures nationally for adding affordable housing stock, because developers can offset the high cost of new development of affordable units with the return they'll earn on renting/selling the luxury ones. Admittedly there are the occasional mid-size and large buildings that are 100% priced affordably (most recently The Beverly comes to mind), but the available cash infusion, grants, and other affordable financing dollars required to construct affordable housing is scantly available to address the needs, and is often best invested in smaller multi-family development projects because they can be delivered more quickly and financed sustainably over time.

I maintain that the most effective strategy to increase affordable housing options regionally is for the region to take an aggressive pro-growth strategy for housing construction; abolish parking minimums (especially within 1/2 mile of transit facilities); communities need to exercise their Chapter 40B regs; and communities with incoming Community Preservation Act dollars need to not only develop prioritization strategies of how to use those dollars, but also actually implement them.
 

dshoost88

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This is great data, but I have to admit this number shocked me. Revere has done a ton of building (and continues to do so) over the past 5 years and they only managed to grow 2.5%? Wow
Census data has a lag, particularly from the American Community Survey. Most municipal population numbers are based on a ACS 5-year average of the previous years posted... for example, if Revere had the following population estimates for 5 years, their 2019 population would read 53,000 (their listed population was 53,073 for 2019).
2010 - 51,755
...
2015 - 52,000
2016 - 52,500
2017 - 53,000
2018 - 53,500
2019 - 54,000

Another contribution for the lag is that new housing units are not always immediately accounted for in a given year's population estimates. This is generally rectified by the decennial census when the US Census Bureau has address canvassers go to every census tract in the country to corroborate addresses.

Until the 2020 decennial census data is released next summer, we won't have a clear picture of how many people actually live in all municipalities.
 

tysmith95

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Revere has a large immigrant and non-citizen population. I wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't fully counted in this years census.
 

Arlington

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The fact that rents have fallen 15% ~ 25% during covid is a great "natural experiment" that shows that price responds to plain old supply and demand. (Survey linked below says Boston rents fell 19% during COVID)

This year slack demand caused prices to fall across all segments. Pretty much demonstrating that the problem is not that new development is "too gentrifying" or "too fancy" but simply not enough supply.

The problem isn't granite countertops and marble baths it is petrified NIMBYs and ossified zoning.

The best time to build housing is "15 years ago," the second best time is now.


 
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George_Apley

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theSil

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I tweeted about it last week, mainly because I'm still trying to figure out what constitutes a "reasonably sized district". Most of the proposal is encapsulated in this paragraph of H.5250:


If a "reasonably sized district" is in fact reasonably sized, MA will have managed to stealthily pass a bill that strongly resembles Scott Wiener's SB 50 in California, a bill which has dominated CA politics, garnering national new coverage every time it is reintroduced in their state senate, and failing three times now. It will be a tremendous accomplishment if MA's bill is passed with this little fanfare.

As your linked Globe article mentions, there is some doubt that Baker signs off, as he, "has generally resisted zoning mandates on cities and towns, preferring instead measures such as his Housing Choice Act". Hopefully now that the two are bundled, he won't nuke the MBTA station upzoning and further delay his 3-year long push for Housing Choice.
 

George_Apley

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Ah thanks! Not being an expert on the limitations of the governor's line-item veto, I presume he can just axe this provision if he wants to? This definitely seems like something that municipalities would blow their brains out over.
 

theSil

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I believe you’re correct that he can line item veto just this section, but at that point it is sent back to the legislature and since we’ve just entered a new legislative session the bill would have to be refiled to be considered again.
 
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George_Apley

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I believe you’re correct that he can line item veto just this section, but at that point it is sent back to the legislature and since we’ve just entered a new legislative session the bill would have to be refiled to be considered again.
So since they didn't pass the bill until the 11th hour, Baker can avoid override votes because they're in a new session? Interesting. Let's see how much he takes a scalpel to it.
 

Vagabond

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Over 10,000 housing units, 27 percent of which are income-restricted approved by the BPDA in 2020
Dec 30, 2020
More than 220 virtual public meetings held in response to COVID-19

The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) Board this year approved over 15.8 million square feet of new development worth more than $8.5 billion and 10,123 residential units, including 2,826 income-restricted units, representing over 27 percent of total units.
This year's Board approved projects will generate over $5.4 million in new Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) funds, over $43.2 million in Linkage fees to support affordable housing, and over $8.5 million in Linkage fees to support job training programs. The development projects approved this year are expected to create approximately 23,287 construction jobs and 12,012 permanent jobs.



NOTE: 7,000 of these are at Suffolk Downs. Still impressive on all fronts in the middle of a pandemic year. Let's get them built!
 

jklo

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Doesn't seem to be hurting Real Estate much, but rents are definitely coming down.
 

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