East Boston getting denser: Board approves slew of projects, none of which will include affordable units

The Board of Appeal today approved a total of 27 new residential units across East Boston. Because none are in projects of 10 or more units, all can be sold at market or luxury rates, with no units designated for people making less than the median income.

In a sign of political changes to come in the neighborhood, though, incoming City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who takes office in January, opposed two of the projects supported by outgoing Councilor Sal LaMattina.

The most contentious project of the day was Charles DiPrima's plan to replace a single-family home at 84 Faywood Ave. with a four-story, three unit condo building. LaMattina, who lives nearby, supported the proposal; Edwards opposed it.

Although it would be bracketed by two three-unit buildings - one built in 1900, the other under construction - a number of residents on Faywood and Beachview Rd. said they were worried about the precedent being set, that out-of-town developers would begin to swoop in and buy up other single-family homes in the only part of the neighborhood zoned for them and destroy the bucolic, kids-on-bikes atmosphere they moved there for.

"It's a section of the city that looks a lot like Medford and Belmont and Arlington," Beachview Road resident Joseph Arangio said. "It's why people moved there."

Another Beachview resident, Eric Roberts, who lives with his wife and two daughters, said the city needs housing for families with more than just two people in them. But once a single-family home is replaced with condos - which he predicted would start happening if the board approved the project, "it'll be gone forever." Other residents argued DiPrima's need to make more money did not constitute the sort of hardship that would be required for the board to grant variances for the project.

LaMattina and other supporters, however, said the house is the only single-family house left on that stretch and that DiPrima is a local developer doing quality work - and adding more housing stock to a neighborhood in desperate need of it.

The spectre of out-of-town developers destroying what's good about East Boston also came up during a hearing on a proposal to build a four-story, seven-unit building with six parking spaces on what are now two vacant lots at 90 Cottage St., between Maverick and Everett streets.

"Our neighborhood is being taken away from us," neighbor Brenda Gorovitz, whose grandparents bought the house she lives in in 1902, told the board.

The board voted in favor.

Also winning approval:

  • A four-story, nine-unit condo building on what is now a vacant lot at 80 Marginal St. Diane Modica, who lives across the street, says she's glad something is finally being built on what has been empty space since at least the 1920s, but said at 45 feet tall, it's out of character with the neighborhood. This was the other project on which LaMattina and Edwards differed.
  • A four-story, six-unit building with six parking spaces on a site now occupied by a single-story commercial building at 67 Lubec St.
  • The conversion of a triple decker at 189 Trenton St. into a six-unit building.
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Honest question

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Another Beachview resident, Eric Roberts, who lives with his wife and two daughters, said the city needs housing for families with more than just two people in them. But once a single-family home is replaced with condos - which he predicted would start happening if the board approved the project, "it'll be gone forever."

So my honest question - what do people who want units for families with more than 2 people want to see? The whole city can't be single family homes - we don't have the room for that.

Is it a question of density (and people not wanting density), or is it more "I prefer my triple deckers to a a condo block"?

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Be careful what you ask for

Somebody bought an unusual cinder block house from the 1930s in my neighborhood that was on a triple lot.

They tore down the smaller house, split up the land, and built two rather large homes (not too outsized for the neighborhood).

I would not even begin to call the resulting high end houses "affordable". I'm still kind of stunned by them, actually. Beautiful construction, but ... whoh. I don't think they would be in the reach of a young family like our house was 20 years ago.

This makes me wonder if, in convenient areas, single family houses will bring far more gentrification than condos will.

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Yes, single families not the answer, for good or bad.

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I'm pretty sure I know of the houses you are talking about. I think they were both in the $1 million range. So, yes, new construction single families in close-in neighborhoods, even in towns not considered "exclusive" is not affordable. Another house near me, that was basically a brand new house built on an old foundation just closed for over $1 million.

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Zoning

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This neighborhood is zoned as single family - that is why the developer was asking for the variance. Nobody is asking for more single family homes to be built. They just don't want them torn down to build four story 1 and 2 bedroom condos in order for developers to flip them. Build as many 3 unit condos as you want in 3 family zones.

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LaMattina has quietly been

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LaMattina has quietly been pretty good on development issues for a district councilor where most just oppose everything. He supports a number of projects rather than just being an automatic NIMBY no. Disappointing but not surprising to see Edwards already taking this NIMBY tack. Projects like this expose opponents for not actually caring about affordability but rather just being against anything new. If they really cared about affordability, they would support MORE units on site to hit the required threshold to include affordable units. The next time that happens will be the first time from opponents.

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Trickle down housing!

Yes, by all means, squander the flavor of a neighborhood by putting up a shitload of overpriced units that will be occupied by people who are upset that they can't get artisinal coffee at the local bodega. Then when they fill those units first, then we can worry about the so called "affordable" units for those plebs that still like Dunkie's. If they're lucky.

Or am I wrong?

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Housing demand exists whether

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Housing demand exists whether you like it or not. Every unit in a building with a "shitload of overpriced units" is one less unit bought up in a triple decker by those same wealthy people. I'm not wealthy and cannot afford one of those units but I understand housing policy and how a market works. Check the recent housing report that just came out yesterday, demand is outpacing supply which results in price jacks across the board.

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It's not an economics issue.

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It's not an economics issue. It's a census issue. People are moving here and we haven't built enough units. It's that simple, regardless of whatever bizarre axe you have to grind.

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It’s a regional issue

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All these new folk want to live close to downtown. Despite all attempts, you can only build so many units in the immediate area. That leads to people realizing that Eastie is only a few stops away on the T.

I feel for the people of Eastie, but they are being effected by forces that are affecting the region.

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What does the census have to

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What does the census have to do with how long I've lived in East Boston? Does it have any impact on the fact that more people are moving to Boston than we've built housing for? No, of course not, and if you were arguing in good faith, you'd admit that. But you're not.

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What you longtime East Boston

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What you longtime East Boston residents don’t realize is that there is not enough housing stock in East Boston to house these new generation of Yuppies and potential Airbnb airline attendants, its a serious housing crisis.
The “I own East Boston “days are over!!! No one owns East Boston! Lol
Yuppies are driven out of Boston due to the high cost of property values, an example let’s use Millenium Tower in downtown crossing $7 million to $30 million a unit who are we kidding not to blame millenium tower for the high cost of condo prices in Boston , the average person cannot buy any kind of real estate 1 square mile anywhere near this tower, so the average yuppy has no alternative but to go to places like Eastie which is (not so cheap any longer) and Dorchester .

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I think Faywood ave is a 2

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I think Faywood ave is a 2 family zoned area which means only allowed to build a two family oppose to a 3 family , it’s been in the The city’s zoning law books for the last 100 plus years.
That part of Orient heights was always expensive to buy a home throughout the 1970s and 1980s mainly single family homes, that area appealed to the high class Italians lol.. who once lived in the gritty part of Eastie which is now much more expensive than the Faywood ave /Orient ave areas .

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Question

When did Boston start to have "zoning books" that had any force of law?

100 years? Really? Or were three families and two families simply what developers put up 100+ years ago without any approvals or permits?

I was under the impression that these tracts were built out like this because it was what the developers wanted to build at the time, because that is what they could make the most profit on at the time - not that it was zoned for anything or that there was any law requiring such things 100 years ago. Note the presence of some very dirty industrial sites in the middle of neighborhoods of this era.

I'd be fascinated to know the history of this - does anyone know?

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Actually ...

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The first zoning laws in the country date to the development of the Back Bay, where laws were enacted mandating minimum heights for the new buildings as well as building materials and a certain amount of setback.

So we're talking mid-to-late 1800s.

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Anti-fire laws in Chicago

Similar era, different purpose.

But I was considering that places like Somerville, Arlington, Medford, and even parts of Belmont were built out with triple deckers and two families and even six and twelve family tenements because that was what would maximize revenue for the land, not because of any zoning restrictions.

Similarly, some areas were built out with single family houses in the 1930s-1950s because the market for those was strong, and (maybe by then) there was zoning.

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BRA has a zoning map of areas

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BRA has a zoning map of areas around Eastie , it clearly indicates what can be built within the zoning “perimeters” if you will, go to the BRA website, it’s free information.
There is a reason why some areas of Eastie with single family homes and some areas that have 2 family homes.

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Not the question

The contention was that this was the case for over 100 years. Zoning in this part of the country was not comprehensive until the latter half of the last century at best. Some communities in MA only implemented zoning of any sort in the last 30 years.

It would be unusual - but not impossible - for there to have been zoning when the area of Eastie (or any part of Eastern MA) in question was developed. That's why I'm curious about the assertion - are there any citations or historical records to back this up? What is the history here?

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A yuppy would rather spend

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A yuppy would rather spend $480k for a Marion or a Morris street 500 sq ft condo that will be minutes away from downtown Boston than spend that kind of money for a 2000 sq ft condo on Orient ave or Faywood ave condo.

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Citywide

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I’m pulling this off the top of my head, but I believe the first comprehensive zoning was done in either 1924 or 1928.

As a bonus fact, East Boston was one of the areas of concern for the City Planning Board.

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Interesting

What were the concerns driving this? Any idea?

Most early zoning wasn't targeted at density, per se because people did need to be packed in near transportation corridors and areas of employment. Some communities were overloaded on sewer or water connections, others dealing with trash capacity and the like. Others were becoming aware of environmental issues with heavy industries in densely settled areas (like the lead smelter in Somerville). Cambridge had lingering issues with the Great Swamp, flooding, and mosquito-borne disease in densely populated areas of North Cambridge.

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Brief History of Three Families in Boston

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An excellent book from the 1970s called "Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston, 1870-1900" looks at the development of triple deckers and other homes in the Boston "suburbs," with a special focus on the then independent towns of Dorchester, Roxbury, and West Roxbury.
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During the 30-year period covered in the book, 9,000 different builders constructed the new homes in those three communities. Often these people were simply neighbors-to a vacant site and they modeled what they built after the last house constructed on their block that sold or rented successfully. Nearly all of the 9,000 builders only constructed 1-2 homes. They were not developers as we would understand them today.
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Boston's first comprehensive zoning code dates to 1964, although various restrictions (e.g., on building heights) date to the early 1900s. Zoning, NIMBYism, code compliance, the shift toward an service sector-based economy, lack of available land, etc. has made the sort of pace of change witnessed at the end of the 1800s impossible today. Meeting minimum off-street parking requirements alone would ordinarily prevent many small infill developments from getting off the ground.

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One thing

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Check out my links in answer to Swirly. Boston had comprehensive zoning in the 1920s. In the 60s they got the right to amend the zoning code without consulting Beacon Hill.

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Except for being against

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Except for being against Brown v Board of Education, and running horrifically racist ads up and down the streets blaring through bullhorns during the mayoral campaign.

If Sal wants to shake babies and kiss hands, let him be a greeter at Wal-Mart. He has NO idea what is going on in the city, not now and not at any point in history.

Personally I'm ok with new apartments and condos going up if and only if they replace what used to be affordable units on the same footprints. These projects don't so, nuts to them. My life is not improved by vulture capitalists getting marginally better returns for uninhabited mcmansion style "luxury" condos bought by money-laundering princelings. Their profit margins are not my problem.

Give me new neighbors who actually live here or flounce back to London, IDGAF.

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Foolish question - was there

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Foolish question - was there anything the Board of Appeal didn't approve today? Why do they even bother with hearings (if you want to call what they do a "hearing")? Wouldn't it save time and money if they just stamped everything "approved" at the beginning of the day? It is a true education to attend one of these events. If there is another body which displays its disdain for the residents of this city more openly, I am not aware of it. And I am reassured to see that Sal LaMattina remained craven to the end. I wouldn't like to think that I had been mistaken in my low opinion of him.

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I heard they want to build a

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I heard they want to build a 7 story 40 unit condo complex in the parking lot and on top of Ecco restaurant on Porter Street, I believe this will be a great add on to the East Boston community, developments like this one should have happened 25 years ago, Eastie was lagging behind when it came down to development, while places like Southie and Charlestown we’re flourishing . New condo developments bring new tax dollars to the city along with responsible condo owners who demand cleaner (streets of Eastie have been much cleaner which I have been noticing) and a safer neighborhood.

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LaTulippe Strikes Again

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I think she was probably waxing poetically meaning that generations of her family could afford to live in a home in the neighborhood and now those homes are being replaced. So because her family has been in the neighborhood since 1902, a long time, I can understand how she feels about the loss of the neighborhood as she remembers it to be.

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Human Rights

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Deciding when to bear children - or if - is a human right.

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Covering their expenses

Is a human responsibility, one I'm less inclined to cover for others as the population grows and competition for resources becomes more fierce.

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You "engage" women sexually?

Well, aren't you Lance Romance! Do the ladies also fight for your delight or does that skin in the game refer to your own personal amount of applied friction?

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Bogus source

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Sorry, but that's been seriously discredited - and you probably know that.

But we all know that you want to control other people's reproductive lives and that's ok because Jesus or something.

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You know

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I might eat a tiny bit of crow on this, because as Time put it, the relationship between Sanger and the eugenics movement is "complicated."

Still, when a defense includes the statement-

In the 1920s and 1930s, eugenics enjoyed widespread support from mainstream doctors, scientists, and the general public.

It's not a good thing.

And by the way, even though these aspects of Sanger's views are used to attack the abortion rights movement, I easily concede that such views are barely a blip in the movement today. Don't mean the movement is right today, but they aren't a bunch of eugenicists.

I would argue

That he wants for people to be able to control their own reproductive lives.

I'm just trying to put the pills into the hands of women, not their mouths. Maybe I should stand on Brookline Ave over the Pike like the guy with the religious pamphlets before Sox games, with rubbers in my left hand, and pills in my right hand. Come and get 'em.

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Forcing women to have babies

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That's also eugenics.

How about we have free access and let people decide about their own bodies and lives and families?

Including Catholics? Including people who are NOT you?

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Sanger's views were not so rosy

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She definitely had a view that some people should reproduce and others shouldn't be allowed to reproduce. Not quite a choice.

The "reproductive rights" movement definitely evolved since Sanger, but the roots were not really about people deciding on their own what they can do with their bodies. Quite the opposite.

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The city is not "yours"

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Cities are dense. They house a lot of people. And employ a lot of people. Boston will continue to increase in population, and it is not going to increase with single-family homes. If you don't like "tall" three or four story buildings, DON'T LIVE IN THE CITY!

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I guess this person missed

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I guess this person missed the part about Boston having many different neighborhoods with many different types of housing. It always seems to be the areas with less influence which get these things crammed down their throats. Places like West Roxbury and Beacon Hill - not so much. And don't you just love it when non-neighborhood people (who are usually just passing through) try to explain to long-time residents what city living is all about?

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Trollers gonna troll

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Yes, Boston is large enough that it can have both dense development and single-family homes. For every Back Bay and downtown, there's a Roslindale and Hyde Park.

If you want to live downtown and can afford it, good for you, go for it. But not all of us can afford downtown or don't want to live in such a dense area (or, oh, want to compromise with a spouse from a small town). Boston's big enough to support a variety of housing types. And, lookee here, even in Boston, somebody's still building single-family homes.

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Glad you think I'm a troll

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Also glad that NIMBYs like you are losing the battles and the war. Go to whatever suburban hellhole best suits you so we can stop hearing you whine about a city getting bigger.

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Joke's on you

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I live in the city, and I like it. Go move to Shanghai or Mumbai if you feel Boston isn't dense enough for you.

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Strawmen aren't a good look on you

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There's a wide range of cities between Boston and Shanghai. A few statistics on square mileage, population, and density confirm this gulf.

Also, it's not about what I personally want. It's about what people in general want, and clearly people want dense, transit-accessible, amenity-accessible neighborhoods. Unless you're going to impose a ban on immigration or childbearing, the population will increase - and these people need housing somewhere.

The problem with NIMBYs is they never have solutions. They only have the word "no" with zero answers as to affordable housing. And saying "build it someplace else" is not an answer.

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OK, I'll lay off the strawmen if you lay off ...

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Seeing everything in black and white.

There are different kinds of housing units. Boston is large enough that it can support both really dense growth in some areas (Downtown, the South End, etc.) and low density housing in others (Roslindale, Hyde Park, Mattapan, etc.).

But let's get even more fine grained.

Yes, Roslindale has areas where people live in single-family homes, some of them really small (drive down Poplar Street near the golf course for little Cape after little Cape). But it also has areas with actual apartments and condos and tightly packed triple deckers (Roslindale Square up Washington Street to Forest Hills).

Even in this relatively small neighborhood, there's are different densities. And there's room for more growth - some of which would not even require tearing down existing buildings (there are a number of one-story buildings in Roslindale Square that originally had two or three floors and that are still zoned to allow them to have those added - like one landlord did with the building where Redd's is).

Growing the housing stock does not have to mean sticking 30-story towers everywhere - and it would be stupid to do that even if you wanted to because the infrastructure just doesn't exist to support it (getting back to the golf-course area, there's one bus and it runs maybe every half hour, even on weekdays).

Or forget Boston. Just drive around Brooklyn - which would be the fourth largest city in America. Plenty of apartment/condo/coop buildings - and also tons of single-family homes.

Increasing the number of housing units does not require turning all of Boston into downtown.

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By the way, Adam

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A person isn't a "troll" because they post something you disagree with. That is not the definition of a troll. You've been around the web long enough that you shouldn't need this explained to you.

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True, but ...

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Pretty much every single time I write about single-family homes in Boston, somebody will get all This Is A City and We Should Not Stand in the Way of Density, harrumph, and it gets to feel kind of trollish after awhile.

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I guess you missed something

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Namely, that East Boston is a neighborhood of BOSTON. So let me help you out here: East Boston is in the city of Boston, ergo it is "city living." It borders the harbor, and has subway service. It is not a suburb.

Boston, a city, is going to continue to grow. And I actually agree with you that rich, white neighborhoods could stand to have some massive development of their own, but the rich, white, trust fund baby NIMBYs - who don't work, and who inherited property from their parents - have all the time in the world to beat down City Hall's door with complaints and threats.

Raise the estate tax, force the rich, white, trust fund baby NIMBYs to learn the "dignity of work" so that they have something to do with themselves, and then maybe they won't dominate BPDA hearings. Then, throw up a few 30-story, all low-income housing developments in their neighborhoods.

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Density varies from place to

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Density varies from place to place. They aren't all as dense as you want them just because you say so. People wouldn't move places if there wasn't going to be zoning that was followed.

East Boston Housing

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Cambridge has a new project being built on the edge of Central Square. The project will contain 308 housing units of which 20% will be affordable.

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Again,

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what does "affordable" mean? Does it mean that your monthly rent will be no more than 30 percent of ones income? And will there be a lottery for those that are affordable? And what are the income restrictions. Many folks make too much to try for one via the lottery but not enough to afford the market rates. Ha, good luck with that.

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Too much,

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Too much,
Too many people,
Too much,
Too many people,
Too much,
Too many people....

Use top-of-the-line flame retardant materials.

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Calcutta

People from India consider this level of build out to be a suburban development.

Americans don't even begin to scratch the surface of too much/too many people.

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Pushing families further out of the City

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There hasn't been many developments with affordable units. The continuation of killing the low and middle class of the City by the Administration.

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Not quite

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Every development of more than 10 units has to have at least 13% of the units set aside for people making under the area median income - or pay into a city fund that goes to develop or set aside units for such folks.

Whether the AMI is the best metric to use (given how high it is in the Boston area, a lot of people might still be unable to afford the units) or whether 13% is enough is another question, but it's not like there's no affordable housing being built in Boston, given how many large developments we've been seeing.

So why'd I go with the headline? Because it hit me, after sitting through all these hearings (granted, in the comfort of our dining room, since I knew it would be on the city TV system and so avoided going downtown) that if all 27 units were in a single project, the developers would have had to include 3 or 4 affordable units. But since they were scattered around and not part of a single project, the city got no affordable units out of the deal, um, deals.

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I swear these politicians are

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I swear these politicians are being paid under the table to approve all these luxury condos. Look at Fenway, doesn’t even look the same anymore. Luxury condos left and right. Whatever happened to affordable housing? The politicians here seem to be catering to the 1% more than the Republican Party!!

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Go to the OCPF web site and

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Go to the OCPF web site and see who's donating to your local politicians. LaMattina's anointed successor took in a bundle from developers and is still showing up at zoning hearings, presumably in his City capacity. LaMattina did pretty well in that department himself though restaurant owners were also quite generous. And Marty Walsh - over the top!

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Normally I'd be all for build

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Normally I'd be all for build up but if you look at street view, the entire neighborhood really is moderate sized two families with the SINGLE exception of the triple decker next door - which sticks out and looks really weird. To say DON'T MOVE TO THE CITY IF YOU DON'T WANT CITY LIVING is fair - but this is a suburb, built like a suburb, so that's not what these people did.

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