Multi-Family Zoning Requirements for MBTA Communities

Stlin

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One thing to note with this law is that it doesn't require communities to actually build the housing, just zone it such that it could be built.
I bet the orchard is large enough that it could satisfy the requirements alone with rezoning.
Isn't the bolded kind of absurd for a town on the commuter rail?
Yea... welcome to a rural bedroom community outside of 495. We don't actually have CR service directly - we're an "adjacent community." Part of the push back is that, without going into too much detail and thus doxxing myself (please don't - if you want to discuss in detail, please PM) the town is relatively unique in that for now it cannot directly exert zoning control over significant areas, particularly that closest to the station which may be best suited for density and development. They did a study on the orchards a few years ago, as part of the town's efforts to develop senior housing, but said orchard apparently has had so many years of agricultural chemical use that decontamination for residential development was not cost effective. Since then, there has been talk about purchasing a conservation easement on it (as with almost all the local farms) to preserve it for agricultural use.
 

DZH22

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Black and Hispanic people are still disproportionately poor in this country, no? Wealthy Asian immigrants notwithstanding..
Yes, they are, but the ones who do have money get to "participate" in activities such as moving to more exclusive/expensive towns. Rich Black and Hispanic people have better opportunities than poor White people. It's just obviously the averages don't match up by race regarding who is and isn't wealthy. But for those who are wealthy, they all have similar opportunities with what to do with that money, regardless of other factors (race, gender, religion, nationality, etc).

I think Asians in particular should be emulated as they needed to achieve their success in a way that doesn't relate to common 2022 tropes like white privilege. We can't say that they came to the US and just had everything handed to them. Most of them come here poor, many don't know English, and throughout history they have faced large amounts of discrimination. Yet their next generations end up seeing more success than essentially any other race. Jewish people (of which I am one) followed a similar route, although of course most of us are also white, but talk about a group of people who is often hated everywhere they go! It seems like the largest measurable component to monetary success lies in having 2-parent households, especially ones that stress education. My High School girlfriend who was Asian grew up in a very small cramped household, was expected to (and did) hit the books hard, and now owns a house worth over $2 million in a really nice town. Most of her family in general seemed to go from 1st generation lower middle class to 2nd generation "rich."

The thing is, anybody can stress these attributes (2 parent involvement with a focus on education) and those that do tend to be more prosperous on average. At the end of the day we are all individuals who need to make our own decisions, but the keys to success for certain groups can typically be applied by any person in any other group at an individual level. Another measurable piece is just reading more books. Anybody can and nothing holds people back from accessing (essentially infinite) books, but it's an individual's decision to do so. Certain cultures (Asians/Jews in particular) have stressed this in larger numbers than other cultures, and obviously the cultural pressures help shape us as we are growing up. But whether or not your identified culture embraces these keys to success or not, they tend to work and you as an individual have the ability to get where you want to go, if you make the conscious decision to put in that focused level of effort.

Personally, I would like to see all groups of Americans/humans prosper, and the gaps between certain groups to get smaller. However, I want those gaps to shrink because those less prosperous are improving their lots in life, and not just by pulling the more prosperous people down to a lower level. I think everybody has the innate capabilities and have seen individual proof across all races, religions, and everything else. I had a black roommate who has 2 degrees from 2 Ivy League schools and is now a doctor, and she earned it every step of the way. I'm glad nobody convinced her that she had to be a victim when she was instead able to achieve so much more than that. But she had to work her ass off to get where she is. The income/wealth gaps aren't going to shrink by themselves, but I hope that when they do it is because we are all more successful as a whole, rather than just being equally miserable.
 

Blackbird

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Yes, they are, but the ones who do have money get to "participate" in activities such as moving to more exclusive/expensive towns.
Well, sure, but I assume Equilibria's post was more in regards to Joe Schmoe from Roxbury than Kanye West.

I think Asians in particular should be emulated as they needed to achieve their success in a way that doesn't relate to common 2022 tropes like white privilege. We can't say that they came to the US and just had everything handed to them. Most of them come here poor, many don't know English, and throughout history they have faced large amounts of discrimination.
It'd be an interesting study to try and find out what percent of Asian-Americans in a town like Lexington were born poor.

Personally, I would like to see all groups of Americans/humans prosper, and the gaps between certain groups to get smaller. However, I want those gaps to shrink because those less prosperous are improving their lots in life, and not just by pulling the more prosperous people down to a lower level. I think everybody has the innate capabilities and have seen individual proof across all races, religions, and everything else. I had a black roommate who has 2 degrees from 2 Ivy League schools and is now a doctor, and she earned it every step of the way. I'm glad nobody convinced her that she had to be a victim when she was instead able to achieve so much more than that. But she had to work her ass off to get where she is. The income/wealth gaps aren't going to shrink by themselves, but I hope that when they do it is because we are all more successful as a whole, rather than just being equally miserable.
Well said, but how does this tie back into the MBTA zoning topic? Surely, having more modern housing in more towns is a boon to everyone in the state regardless of race, no? Well, I guess everyone except those whose families have lived in exclusive, low-density towns for generations.
 

tysmith95

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One thing to note with this law is that it doesn't require communities to actually build the housing, just zone it such that it could be built.

I bet the orchard is large enough that it could satisfy the requirements alone with rezoning.
Lots of farms left in eastern mass are protected from development as a result of the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program. Basically state funding to pay farms the market value (where a developer to buy to build) to preserve their land for farming or parkland.

I think we should keep open spaces (parks orchards etc) and increase housing stock by building multi family. Multi family near transit is better than suburban sprawl. Though it is kinda silly to have farmland in the walkable catchment to commuter rail stops.

Anyway, I'm willing to bet that Stlin either lives on the Newburyport branch or the Fitchburg line. There are a number of towns with very restrictive zoning along those that feel "rural".
 

DZH22

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Well said, but how does this tie back into the MBTA zoning topic? Surely, having more modern housing in more towns is a boon to everyone in the state regardless of race, no? Well, I guess everyone except those whose families have lived in exclusive, low-density towns for generations.
I was mainly just responding to Equilibria's assertion that they were zoning towns for only white people. As Charlie_mta put fairly well in a post above, the zoning isn't for white people so much as affluent people who can afford it. Most white people can't afford those rich towns either. It's just that obviously right now the proportions of wealth don't average out neatly by race. If they did, and my assertion is that they could in the future (maybe organically within about 25 years) then race wouldn't be brought up at all. I hope to see that result in my lifetime.
 

Java King

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I know Cohasset and Scituate are taking this very seriously and actively planning to change some zoning around the train stations. Scituate already has some good multi-family and TOD Zoning in place around the two stations in town. The problem with North Scituate station is no sewer service to that area, and it seriously constricts development. Greenbush, on the other hand, is quite active with multi-family housing projects under construction.
SkySail at Driftway - Scituate, MA - DREW COMPANY
 

tysmith95

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I know Cohasset and Scituate are taking this very seriously and actively planning to change some zoning around the train stations. Scituate already has some good multi-family and TOD Zoning in place around the two stations in town. The problem with North Scituate station is no sewer service to that area, and it seriously constricts development. Greenbush, on the other hand, is quite active with multi-family housing projects under construction.
SkySail at Driftway - Scituate, MA - DREW COMPANY
I'll doxx myself. Beverly where I live has multi family zoning next to the commuter rail, and may already be complaint. It's one of the few towns building multifamily housing without state requirements (40b and now this).

They're talking about expanding the zone as well. Not sure if it's to comply with these regulations or not.
 

Stlin

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Yes, they are, but the ones who do have money get to "participate" in activities such as moving to more exclusive/expensive towns. Rich Black and Hispanic people have better opportunities than poor White people. It's just obviously the averages don't match up by race regarding who is and isn't wealthy. But for those who are wealthy, they all have similar opportunities with what to do with that money, regardless of other factors (race, gender, religion, nationality, etc).

I think Asians in particular should be emulated as they needed to achieve their success in a way that doesn't relate to common 2022 tropes like white privilege. We can't say that they came to the US and just had everything handed to them. Most of them come here poor, many don't know English, and throughout history they have faced large amounts of discrimination. Yet their next generations end up seeing more success than essentially any other race. Jewish people (of which I am one) followed a similar route, although of course most of us are also white, but talk about a group of people who is often hated everywhere they go! It seems like the largest measurable component to monetary success lies in having 2-parent households, especially ones that stress education. My High School girlfriend who was Asian grew up in a very small cramped household, was expected to (and did) hit the books hard, and now owns a house worth over $2 million in a really nice town. Most of her family in general seemed to go from 1st generation lower middle class to 2nd generation "rich."

The thing is, anybody can stress these attributes (2 parent involvement with a focus on education) and those that do tend to be more prosperous on average. At the end of the day we are all individuals who need to make our own decisions, but the keys to success for certain groups can typically be applied by any person in any other group at an individual level. Another measurable piece is just reading more books. Anybody can and nothing holds people back from accessing (essentially infinite) books, but it's an individual's decision to do so. Certain cultures (Asians/Jews in particular) have stressed this in larger numbers than other cultures, and obviously the cultural pressures help shape us as we are growing up. But whether or not your identified culture embraces these keys to success or not, they tend to work and you as an individual have the ability to get where you want to go, if you make the conscious decision to put in that focused level of effort.

Personally, I would like to see all groups of Americans/humans prosper, and the gaps between certain groups to get smaller. However, I want those gaps to shrink because those less prosperous are improving their lots in life, and not just by pulling the more prosperous people down to a lower level. I think everybody has the innate capabilities and have seen individual proof across all races, religions, and everything else. I had a black roommate who has 2 degrees from 2 Ivy League schools and is now a doctor, and she earned it every step of the way. I'm glad nobody convinced her that she had to be a victim when she was instead able to achieve so much more than that. But she had to work her ass off to get where she is. The income/wealth gaps aren't going to shrink by themselves, but I hope that when they do it is because we are all more successful as a whole, rather than just being equally miserable.
There's ... an awful lot to unpack here, and most if not all unrelated to the zoning debate. This is most certainly not exclusive to Boston either. Briefly, however:

Model minority theory, or more properly, myth. Previously applied to Jews, and now Asians, its rather harmful in that it historically has been used to suggest that contrast through stereotype - a model to which African Americans and Hispanics are compared unfavorably to, what has been referred to as a "racial wedge." It minimizes the role racism plays in the persistent struggles of other racial/ethnic minority groups — especially black Americans, and forgets about historic barriers. There is a selection bias to these claims, as while there is certainly a perception that Asians do better economically, through education and hard work, family values, - certainly, the statistics give truth to this idea - But that erases much of the nuance. Many of the successful Asians you'll find in Lexington and Concord will be from high-middle income Asian countries -Think China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan - especially highly targeted recruitment from those places of their best and brightest. It is much less likely to be true of Laotian or Cambodian immigrants. Asian immigrants in the modern era by and large have never had to deal with red lining, GI bill exclusions, and the knock on effects of segregation and enslavement - that's largely not part of the Asian American story. it is for African Americans. Further, the research suggests that newer African immigrants actively do not identify as "Blacks" in America, especially if they are educated and from a middle income African country - Nigeria, Kenya, etc, instead preferring to "wear" their national identity, in order to separate themselves from the constructs and legacy of African American history. Its also politically convenient for the US political establishment. Asians represent such a small voting bloc that they aren't a threat to the political order, and the post WW2 racial corrections to both Jews and Asians post Holocaust and Japanese Internment Camps are striking in their similarity.

Social Reproduction is also a thing to be aware of. The very act of having resources provides the access to even more resources to get ahead. The opposite is also true; a lack of resources creates a lack of future capital; social, economic, cultural, human. To quote Marx, "capital therefore announces from its first appearance a new epoch in the process of social production." Ceteris paribus, all else being equal, someone whose family is neighbors in Weston with the Dean of HMS is more likely to get into a top med school, than any kid from the projects, who may not have anyone who went to college in their social circle; the school in Weston will likely be significantly better funded, and the family stable and economically secure, able to support a college education. That may not be the case for anyone trying to climb the ladder. And a result of historical inequities, which I shall not get into here, the kid from Weston is also more likely than not to be white, and the kid from Roxbury Black. None of the circumstances surrounding them is their fault. And you mention "putting in the effort" - Half the point is that the established holders of privilege don't have to. More education will help close racial wage gaps somewhat, but it will not resolve problems of denied opportunity. Completely independent of individual ability, the society we live in has these artificial boosts and drags based on race through systemic inequities. that the problem is, as part of the aforementioned social reproduction problem, its more likely than not subsidized housing will disproportionately be used by minorities.

Keep in mind that even without the new MBTA multifamily zoning, there's been the 40B program for decades, which in of itself gets a good amount of pushback from almost every town and project that tries one. The pushback to MBTA Multifamily seems rehashes almost all the same arguments; arguments that opposition to 40B drags up tend to be the NIMBY arguments that preserve the status quo - School Funding, Home Values, Community Character, etc. and thus maximizes the barrier to entry. Unlike 40B, the MBTA plan has no affordability component, and while it is all but destined to be cheaper than the existing housing stock in these towns, I can't help but feel that the equity argument fails. Per MPAC, "any state policy that fails to incentivize affordable units for families will fail to meet the most pressing need in the housing field: the tremendous lack of units that lower-income families with children can afford. Furthermore, such a policy will fail to make a significant dent in the segregation of the region by race, a reality that has been perpetuated by decades of government action."
 

CajunAsian

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I think Asians in particular should be emulated as they needed to achieve their success in a way that doesn't relate to common 2022 tropes like white privilege. We can't say that they came to the US and just had everything handed to them. Most of them come here poor, many don't know English, and throughout history they have faced large amounts of discrimination. Yet their next generations end up seeing more success than essentially any other race. Jewish people (of which I am one) followed a similar route, although of course most of us are also white, but talk about a group of people who is often hated everywhere they go! It seems like the largest measurable component to monetary success lies in having 2-parent households, especially ones that stress education. My High School girlfriend who was Asian grew up in a very small cramped household, was expected to (and did) hit the books hard, and now owns a house worth over $2 million in a really nice town. Most of her family in general seemed to go from 1st generation lower middle class to 2nd generation "rich."
I agree with many of your points, but each racial/ethic/societal/etc. group's situation is as unique and complex as the individuals that make the group. I can't agree with the idea that Black people could simply emulate the success of Asian and Jewish peoples. The last Black slave in America was freed in 1942 (Beeville, TX I believe it was?). We Asians simply haven't experienced that unbelievable and extreme level of discrimination that Black people have. Every non-White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant in the US has faced great adversity, but I see the Black experience in America as being uniquely brutal. There's a lot more historical baggage there than for Asians. In addition, there's a vast difference between emigrating to the US, keeping your cultural traditions, owning business/property, as is the Asian experience, and being ripped from your homeland by slave traders, your cultural roots and ties erased, and not being allowed to vote or own businesses/property for generations.

I'm not saying any of this to diminish the experience of my fellow Asians or of any of the non-WASP groups that have faced discrimination in the US, and I'm certainly not trying to patronize Black people by saying, "Oh you poor thing, you've had it so hard", or anything like that. Just wanted to point out the bare fact that there is a unique brutality in this country's history that has been specifically reserved for Black people.

I should also point out that many successful Asian immigrants already came from relatively wealthy/highly-educated backgrounds back home. We certainly haven't started from zero like many other successful immigrant groups in the US have (speaking specifically about Irish, Italian, Jewish, etc.).

This is getting much longer than I intended, but I'd also like to point out one more very interesting point. Recent African immigrants to the US are very well-off generally, rivaling average income levels of many Asian ethnicities. To me, this shows that past discrimination is a good predictor of future outcomes for a group, maybe much moreso than skin color alone. Take that how you will.
 

jklo

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I was going to make a post about this, but I'm just not sure there's that much demand for expensive market rate condo/apartment housing in the burbs. Now if it was cheap AND market rate, that would be another story. But even in the burbs I think it has to be like 450k/unit+HOA (or the equivalent in rent) at least for it to be realistic. 2 parking spaces/unit is a necessity, etc.
 

CancelEuclid

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I was going to make a post about this, but I'm just not sure there's that much demand for expensive market rate condo/apartment housing in the burbs. Now if it was cheap AND market rate, that would be another story. But even in the burbs I think it has to be like 450k/unit+HOA (or the equivalent in rent) at least for it to be realistic. 2 parking spaces/unit is a necessity, etc.
Suburban multifamily rent growth has outpaced urban multifamily rent growth. In many cases, absorption is faster in the burbs. There is a tremendous amount of demand.
 

Scott

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I'd say that every State law that limits what municipalities can do for the sake of the greater good could be described that way. Municipalities can't openly ban non-White people from living there because of State and Federal laws, but they can do so indirectly through zoning. The State is simply correcting that oversight.
This has nothing to do with inequity and you know it. They just want people to do what they want them to and the ends justifies the means to the point where any critical examination at all is unthinkable. But I will do the unthinkable and point out that this didn't go before the voters for a reason and that this only applies to some towns instead of them all; it is a statewide problem right? Read the original article posted and look up DT Reading's almost 20 year effort at TOD development and you may agree with them that this is overly broad and ham handed. It punishes those that made a real effort. And locally, remember all the nasty housing projects of yesteryear created with righteous good intentions by the smartest folks but with little common sense or local input
 

tysmith95

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I was going to make a post about this, but I'm just not sure there's that much demand for expensive market rate condo/apartment housing in the burbs. Now if it was cheap AND market rate, that would be another story. But even in the burbs I think it has to be like 450k/unit+HOA (or the equivalent in rent) at least for it to be realistic. 2 parking spaces/unit is a necessity, etc.
40b apartment complexes have popped up all over Boston suburbs. 4-6 story wood frame buildings are relatively cheap to build. In many towns enough have been built where no new 40b developments can be built.

There's unmet demand for housing in the burbs imo.
 
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tysmith95

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Good article in the globe on this issue. NIMBYs coming out in force on these requirements, but I do think they're necessary. And I like this law better than 40b as it encourages transit orientated development and not developments next to area highways.
 

sneijder

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Good article in the globe on this issue. NIMBYs coming out in force on these requirements, but I do think they're necessary. And I like this law better than 40b as it encourages transit orientated development and not developments next to area highways.
This is painful to read. These NIMBY surburbanites are probably the same folks with their massive SUV's and complaining about how much worse traffic has gotten. If we don't allow more living near the train (which by-design would predominantly be taking the train and boosting CR ridership), residents will have to live further outside 495 to find something affordable and increasingly clog up 93/95/90. Zoning just seems like a battle of the haves (homeowners) and have-nots (renters/young adults/new buyers) now.
 

jklo

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40b apartment complexes have popped up all over Boston suburbs. 4-6 story wood frame buildings are relatively cheap to build. In many towns enough have been built where no new 40b developments can be built.

There's unmet demand for housing in the burbs imo.
"If it was cheap" being the important statement there. Even 4-6 story buildings are pricey to build.
 

tysmith95

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This is painful to read. These NIMBY surburbanites are probably the same folks with their massive SUV's and complaining about how much worse traffic has gotten. If we don't allow more living near the train (which by-design would predominantly be taking the train and boosting CR ridership), residents will have to live further outside 495 to find something affordable and increasingly clog up 93/95/90. Zoning just seems like a battle of the haves (homeowners) and have-nots (renters/young adults/new buyers) now.
Homeowners are much more in tune to municipal politics than renters/young adults/new buyers.

There's also the issue that hyper local views puts on regional planning.
 

WormtownNative

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There are legitimate downsides being talked about. I know in a community near where I work they're extremely concerned about their sewer infrastructure capacity and how this many units of new housing would impact that. They're also worried about the school district's ability to absorb the growth as well. Does that mean that it's not a thinly veiled NIMBY argument? It could be, especially since the way that community is planning on be compliant is to upzone areas that were just constructed and won't be torn down anytime soon and gain compliance that way.

But the infrastructure concern can be valid - perhaps the state can follow-up on this and offer assistance with infrastructure grants for communities that are willing to put in the work to allow for the growth?
 
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Brandeisian

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Does anyone have a good source for statistics on the number of school age children in MA and specific towns?

I hear the student-teacher ratio argument thrown around a lot, but my understanding is that the fertility rate has continually fallen. My small exurb had class sizes of 120 students in 2012 and now hovers at ~100. Enrollment in Boston Public Schools has declined by 8,000 since 2015.

Local conditions can certainly vary from the macro trends, but when a super-majority of new units are 1-2 bedrooms and targeted at young professionals, I'm far more skeptical of the school district concerns.
 

jklo

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Local conditions can certainly vary from the macro trends, but when a super-majority of new units are 1-2 bedrooms and targeted at young professionals, I'm far more skeptical of the school district concerns.
Those young professionals want to live in the Urban Core. Their job is there. You need a car to live in the burbs.

So for the market rate units you end up with mostly attracting families who can't afford SFH. But they can't exactly afford these units either.
 

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