Housing

George_Apley

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Right. For as much as I support expansive Housing policies, I recognize the very real incentives/disincentives that municipalities have for their protectionist stances. It's not all mindless nimbyism squawking about density and setbacks. The way school districting and funding works creates a strong incentive for highly managed zoning and housing policies as a way to protect school enrollments and maintain high rates of funding per student. That's why they fight.
 

Massachoicetts

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Two things

1) Cities like Chelsea, Revere, Everett, Quincy probably have an undercounted population with the new housing/condos not reflected entirely in its estimates. Boston even too. I wouldn't be all that surprised if Boston had a population over 700k in 2020.
2) Will this new zoning law also inhibit NIMBYism in large scale projects more so than what we have been seeing. Will it helps projects like Newton Riverside and the Harbor Garage Tower alike?
 

George_Apley

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2) Will this new zoning law also inhibit NIMBYism in large scale projects more so than what we have been seeing. Will it helps projects like Newton Riverside and the Harbor Garage Tower alike?
Probably not for things like Harbor Towers. Maybe for Newton and future projects there. This requires municipalities with MBTA stations/docks to essentially create a zoning region nearby that transit node that can host as-of-right multi-family housing. Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, etc. are already likely in compliance with the law based on their existing zoning codes. It's the burbs that are non-compliant. 38 munis by the Globe's count that host MBTA nodes without a nearby area zoned for multi-family housing.
 

Massachoicetts

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Probably not for things like Harbor Towers. Maybe for Newton and future projects there. This requires municipalities with MBTA stations/docks to essentially create a zoning region nearby that transit node that can host as-of-right multi-family housing. Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, etc. are already likely in compliance with the law based on their existing zoning codes. It's the burbs that are non-compliant. 38 munis by the Globe's count that host MBTA nodes without a nearby area zoned for multi-family housing.
Great to hear. I know some towns like Braintree (Biggest one), Canton, Randolph, Stoughton, Dedham, Weymouth (Working on it slowly) and Brockton (I know, but hey) all could be doing a lot better. Especially Braintree. They have Logan Express, Red Line, Commuter Rail and Great Bus services with very limited MultiFamily. Should have a lot more 5+1s near the train station. I think they are the worst offender given how much is there. Randolph could easily have more Multifamily (Holbrook too). They should also look into doubletracking that route for the CR.
 

jklo

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Right. For as much as I support expansive Housing policies, I recognize the very real incentives/disincentives that municipalities have for their protectionist stances. It's not all mindless nimbyism squawking about density and setbacks. The way school districting and funding works creates a strong incentive for highly managed zoning and housing policies as a way to protect school enrollments and maintain high rates of funding per student. That's why they fight.
Given the price that the units would have to be, market rate units shouldn't be a problem because they would be paying quite a bit in property taxes. The "affordable" units are really the issue. Would there be people who would complain if the affordable units were 1 bedroom or less and/or had a high AMI?

Traffic would also be an issue because in the burbs you still need a car. Even if you use the T for commuting to work, and as long as 128 is popular from a office perspective a lot of those new residents will be driving anyway.
 

George_Apley

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Given the price that the units would have to be, market rate units shouldn't be a problem because they would be paying quite a bit in property taxes. The "affordable" units are really the issue. Would there be people who would complain if the affordable units were 1 bedroom or less and/or had a high AMI?

Traffic would also be an issue because in the burbs you still need a car. Even if you use the T for commuting to work, and as long as 128 is popular from a office perspective a lot of those new residents will be driving anyway.
Yeah affordable are a problem politically, but even market rate can be if they're dense. Because it's not just about property tax revenue, it's about enrollment, class sizes, and ultimately construction costs if buildings are no longer "right sized". But yeah a 1-BR isn't likely to be as big a problem for schools, you're right that traffic is the problem there.
 

JumboBuc

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Given the price that the units would have to be, market rate units shouldn't be a problem because they would be paying quite a bit in property taxes. The "affordable" units are really the issue. Would there be people who would complain if the affordable units were 1 bedroom or less and/or had a high AMI?
The issue with schools and property taxes is that there is "stickiness," where an increase in units doesn't immediately lead to increase in tax revenue and an increase in tax revenue doesn't immediately lead to expanded school resources. But an increase in units can immediately lead to an increase in school enrollment, and small fluctuations in enrollment can be difficult to handle, especially for small districts.

This isn't an excuse for NIMBYism, but it is an explanation of where some of the concerns come from.
 

Blackbird

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Probably not for things like Harbor Towers. Maybe for Newton and future projects there. This requires municipalities with MBTA stations/docks to essentially create a zoning region nearby that transit node that can host as-of-right multi-family housing. Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, etc. are already likely in compliance with the law based on their existing zoning codes. It's the burbs that are non-compliant. 38 munis by the Globe's count that host MBTA nodes without a nearby area zoned for multi-family housing.
What about that section that says "reforms abutter appeals to avoid frivolous lawsuits"?
 

Arlington

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What's a good list of under-dense places?
Here's mine (from my side of town)
Porter Sq: Somerville Side
Alewife: East Arlington & along MVP in Cambridge
Central Sq: "far" side of Bishop Allen Dr
---
Sullivan Sq: Somerville Side
GLX Medford/Tufts: Burget Ave (Medford)
---
CR West Medford
CR Wedgemere
CR Melrose Highlands
 

George_Apley

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What about that section that says "reforms abutter appeals to avoid frivolous lawsuits"?
I'd have to look more at the text itself. Didn't notice that in the summary. Would be nice if that could help with other things.
 

George_Apley

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What's a good list of under-dense places?
Here's mine (from my side of town)
Porter Sq: Somerville Side
Alewife: East Arlington & along MVP in Cambridge
Central Sq: "far" side of Bishop Allen Dr
---
Sullivan Sq: Somerville Side
GLX Medford/Tufts: Burget Ave (Medford)
---
CR West Medford
CR Wedgemere
CR Melrose Highlands
I'd assume that Cambridge & Somerville are already in complete compliance. Most of the housing in the urban under-dense places you list are multi-family.
 

kmp1284

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What about that section that says "reforms abutter appeals to avoid frivolous lawsuits"?
Wildly unpopular opinion I know but not every lawsuit filed in opposition to real estate development is frivolous. Some, including those brought by the Harbor Towers residents and CLF, do seem to address legitimate legal questions. I would prefer to see the defendants prevail and the tower built as proposed but simply disagreeing with the goals and motivations of a plaintiff doesn’t make their claim frivolous(otherwise every lawsuit ever filed would be considered frivolous).
 

Arlington

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I'd assume that Cambridge & Somerville are already in complete compliance. Most of the housing in the urban under-dense places you list are multi-family.
2-flats count as "multi-family?"
Until it has 3 floors and extends to the lot line, I wouldn't call anything uber dense.

East Arlington is R2 (2-family). That's insanely un-dense considering it is walkable to alewife.

My gold standard is Arlington VA where the rule is distance based
1 block to Metrorail 13 Floors of Residential
2 blocks to Metrorail 6 to 7 floors Residential
3 blocks to Metrorail "Garden Apartments" (4 levels) or Townhomes (4 story)
4 whatever pre-dated transit's arrival (often single-family, sometimes 2-story apartment)

East Arlington and Somerville side of Porter Sq should be (zoned for) solid housing of at least 4 stories.
 
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Blackbird

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Wildly unpopular opinion I know but not every lawsuit filed in opposition to real estate development is frivolous. Some, including those brought by the Harbor Towers residents and CLF, do seem to address legitimate legal questions. I would prefer to see the defendants prevail and the tower built as proposed but simply disagreeing with the goals and motivations of a plaintiff doesn’t make their claim frivolous(otherwise every lawsuit ever filed would be considered frivolous).
Maybe the Harbor Towers in particular wouldn’t be affected by the new law, but it was lawmakers themselves that called certain lawsuits “frivolous”. I took the wording directly from the summary posted on the other page.
 

George_Apley

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2-flats count as "multi-family?"
Until it has 3 floors and extends to the lot line, I wouldn't call anything uber dense.

East Arlington is R2 (2-family). That's insanely un-dense considering it is walkable to alewife.

My gold standard is Arlington VA where the rule is distance based
1 block to Metrorail 13 Floors of Residential
2 blocks to Metrorail 6 to 7 floors Residential
3 blocks to Metrorail "Garden Apartments" (4 levels) or Townhomes (4 story)
4 whatever pre-dated transit's arrival (often single-family, sometimes 2-story apartment)

East Arlington and Somerville side of Porter Sq should be (zoned for) solid housing of at least 4 stories.
Technically yes, a two-family is multi-family. These neighborhoods may not be uber dense, but the housing stock in these Camberville neighborhoods are dominated by two or three-unit housing, with a smattering of larger apartment buildings and some single-units. This law might make Camberville rezone some areas nearby the stations, but I don't think that the law lays out a structure like you're talking about for Arlington, VA; it allows the municipality to sort that out. Cambridge and Somerville are not the targets of this legislation.
 

bigpicture7

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So I am planting a potential de-rail here from the 449 Cambridge St. development thread because that thread touched on a policy approach I've always been curious about:

To me (and a ton of folks, I think), the question of "how can you dampen gentrification, while increasing the housing supply, while still providing an attractive investment environment for developers?" is so critically important in relation to enabling cities thrive sustainably. One of the few ways my limited brain has been able to grapple with this is through zoning, and in particular, zoning for micro-sized units that, by their design, can't possibly sell or rent for too much...the developer makes money because of more units/development...and the community benefits, both from more housing, and from pressure taken off of the market for mid/larger sized units, which keeps overall prices in check. For example: a late-20s working professional could have stretched themselves (to their chagrin) to just barely afford a 700sf/1brm, and for the past decade in Boston, that had been happening all over the place and kept the mid/upper markets blazing hot; with this new model, that same individual more agreeably buys/rents a 450 sf (or whatever) micro-unit, which eases demand on the next size up, etc. Either way, the unit fills the void of the home this person is going to live in before their next one when they start their family in their early 30s.

Does this model have viability? Shouldn't cities be using the zoning lever much more proactively as a policy tool in order to keep gentrification in-check without squelching the developer investment opportunity space too much? What am I missing? By the way, I know it's super cliche to whine about zoning being completely broken, so I mean this (for now) as perfect-world thought exercise.

EDIT: I see from reading others' inputs (in the 449 Camb. thread) that unit size is typically part of building code, not zoning code. Peace to that. But is there a way to incorporate it into zoning? Or establish limits to quantities of certain unit sizes in a particular land area?
 
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curcuas

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Yes! It's a vital piece of the housing solution historically (SROs at all price points were a thing, including for the elite) and today where many split large apartments and live in far less space per person or live in historic small apartments. Critical piece for students, grad students, and postdocs/young profs.
 

bigpicture7

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Yes! It's a vital piece of the housing solution historically (SROs at all price points were a thing, including for the elite) and today where many split large apartments and live in far less space per person or live in historic small apartments. Critical piece for students, grad students, and postdocs/young profs.
...especially in Boston, it seems a key point here is that our long tradition of young prof's splitting larger apartments has gone along for the ride with increasing housing prices, whereas introducing more and more micro-units actually has potential to keep prices in check or lower prices. It seems the present system contains an elephant in the room that zoning and policymaking seems to pretend doesn't exist.

Another key point is that micro-units are unlikely to add significant pressure to school systems, while nonetheless increasing the tax base.
 

curcuas

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Exactly! Though, it turns out it's a myth that building housing burdens school systems, even when it's pure family housing.
 

Arlington

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Exactly! Though, it turns out it's a myth that building housing burdens school systems, even when it's pure family housing.
I want to believe you. What exactly does it mean, and what source can we leave no to?
 

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