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Bill would force suburbs to zone for apartment and condo buildings

Vox reports on a bill by state Rep. Kevin Honan (D-Brighton) that would require the state's sprawlburgs to set aside at least 1.5% of their buildable land for multi-family buildings.

Honan wants to amend the law that developers can use for projects denser than allowed by local zoning if less than 10% of a town's housing stock is not considered affordable. Towns would be compensated for the added costs of schoolrooms for extra kids such buildings could mean.

Note to Vox: We have a House of Representatives, not a General Assembly.

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in towns like Dover, Hamilton and Manchester.

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Many towns do not have sewer systems, only septic. It is a great tool to keep development low. Everybody poops, but if you cannot treat it right, you cannot build too much density.

Suburbanites aren't as stupid as sometimes people make them out to be. There is an upside to the gladiator combat like commutes. You get to not have to live in a box in the sky where the person next to you is paying 1/3 your rent for the exact same unit because of their "disability" or their lack of just trying in life. While this is not an absolutist statement, it has a grain of truth.

I know I sound like a jackarse but I've been poor and it sucks. Work hard, succeed, make your own choices about where you want to live and not have the state dictate that the suburbs should do more for the housing crisis while Boston classifies swaths of the city as no more build zones.

Rep. Honan, while you are at it, how about banning the conversion of 8 unit apartment buildings in the South End into single family or two unit condos? Might help Boston's rent levels a bit.

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Sure, but they are as evil as we presume them to be, apparently.

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Suburbanites might not be as stupid as people think (hard to know) but they are certainly as boring. Sure, you can have a one acre lot with your house, you get to live on a pile of feces though. And you get to interact mostly with people who are very similar to you, and eat white bread and mayonnaise sandwiches and get enraged about problems the TV told you about the city that have no effect on your life, like who gets to marry whom and whether poor people should have a place to live or not.

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...from a poster name Trump-Baker 2016, i.e. totally clueless

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Talk about generalizations! So, it's OK to paint everyone with a broad brush?

I actually think you just like to pick fights with imaginary people.

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Keep Dover Shitty

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Boston is increasing its housing stock by many thousands per year. And it's accelerating. If the city weren't merely an eighth of the metro area population, this might be enough. Instead it's far too little.

Note also that zoning for apartments doesn't mean rent control. It means allowing people to build what they want on their own land. It's ironic that suburban "freedom" leads to more restrictive land use laws than the "oppressive city."

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A law mandating specific land use in towns is hardly a demonstration of freedom. Nor for that matter is a law restricting land use.

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Requiring towns to designate some areas where people can do multifamily is hardly the same as "demanding" that they build it. It's merely requiring that they allow citizens to do it.

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There are families in multifamily apartments - probably the same people who are told to make their own opportunities and want to send their kids to good schools. Some people don't want to shovel the driveway or fix the roof, but still want to live in a suburban town rather than a city. I'm not sure why people who spout about picking yourself up by your bootstraps and working hard also deny access to opportunity to those folks. Wouldn't a family who moves to town to educate their kids in good schools be a great addition to the community?

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A law MANDATING certain housing stock is not an expression of freedom.

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MANDATING that the town ALLOW it, not that the town DO it.

If not developer shows up to take advantage of this, it won't happen.

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multifamily housing in most towns.

As I've said before, people's income trajectories are not consistent, and the town should have enough housing to suit stages of life for all of its residents (well, reasonably.) Graduates get priced out because during the early stages of their career, they cannot afford housing in their hometown; retirees have to leave because they can no longer afford to maintain their gigantic old Victorian on a pension.

It's not like people's values change that much over time: a kid who graduates from a fancy high school and goes on to medical school isn't going to start being a bad neighbor simply because their medical residency pays less than their dad's job, or start being a bad neighbor because their pension doesn't pay as much as their job did.

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How about we just let the property owner dictate what sort of property they own?

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That's what the bill does. It stops towns from forbidding the construction of badly needed multifamily housing.

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Eh, suburbia - especially those towns on the wrong side of 128 - are for the hoi polloi who can't afford to live in the city.

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I live in Randolph. From Brockton. North Carolina looking nice.

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Dirty little secret about North Carolina: those hilly subdivisions have sewer systems that require eletricity to clear the sewage up and over hills.

You do NOT want to be in an NC mcmansion if there's a prolonged blackout.

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"Suburbanites aren't as stupid as sometimes people make them out to be. There is an upside to the gladiator combat like commutes. You get to not have to live in a box in the sky where the person next to you is paying 1/3 your rent for the exact same unit because of their "disability" or their lack of just trying in life. While this is not an absolutist statement, it has a grain of truth."

Enlighten me, please.

I live in Medford, in a freestanding house with a modest yard, and I live walking distance from several types of "boxes in the sky," but somehow I escaped being forced to live IN one of those boxes.

Can you explain please how requiring towns to allow the construction of multifamily housing will somehow force anyone to live in those units?

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I thought most houses in Dover already are multi-unit: the main house, the servants' quarters, and the au pair suite.

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Otherwise where will terrible husbands find their next wives

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Kudos to Brighton's Rep. Honan for taking a lead on this. To understand how cheap some suburbs are when it comes to subsidizing affordable housing, consider the percentage of housing units in these towns that are subsidized (data come from Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, Chapter 40B Subsidized Housing Inventory, as of December 5, 2014):

Belmont 3.8%
Boxford 0.8%
Dover 0.9%
Duxbury 3.5%
Harvard 5.5%
Hingham 6.3%
Holliston 4.4%
Hull 1.9%
Manchester 4.8%
Nantucket 2.5%
Newton 7.5%
Scituate 4.3%
Sudbury 6.0%

Boston 18.3%
Brighton (Rep. Honan's district) is probably closer to 30% but you would have to consult the Boston Redevelopment Authority for the data for each of Boston's neighborhoods.

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That commute from Nantucket's gotta be a back-breaker.

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What community in their right mind would want 40B housing?

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Well, if they don't want it, then they have a simple solution: Meet the demand for reasonably priced housing in another way, such as... zoning for the construction of a reasonable amount of moderately-sized multifamily housing.

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Suburbs are constantly complaining that more housing means more school costs, but honestly, I'd love to see the statistics on people living in multifamily apartment buildings. All the people I know who live in newer condo/apt buildings are DINKs, and planning on staying that way -- our friends with kids rent single family homes or a floor of a triple decker (which, presumably, is not what's going to get built under this amendment, as a developer wants to eek as many units out of their patch of land as possible).

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I may be wrong, but I don't think those towns have any trouble paying for school costs. And this bill would compensate them for those costs (or for costs that may happen in the future, if I'm reading it right).

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I may be wrong, but I don't think those towns have any trouble paying for school costs.

So, everybody in the burbs is made of money? Another clueless post.

The school budget is typically ~50% of the total budget out in the burbs and is always a battle.

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But here's some assumptions I made. This bill is aimed at the suburbs of Boston that have typically not been friendly to multi-families and apartment buildings. So I looked at a map, and picked out the kind of towns surrounding Boston I think this applied to - places like Needham, Natick, Dover, Wellsley, and Waltham. My criteria? They're near Boston and people I know from those places have money. And all have per pupil expenditures above the state average.

That makes me think that they struggle less with paying for school basics than the kind of cities/towns this bill is not aimed at. Yeah maybe getting a good school budget is a fight, but it's a fight everywhere.

I may be wrong in my reasoning, but I'm not clueless.

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Waltham Annual Income
family average 73K per capita 35k

Wellesley 159K 72K

Dover 185K 93K

I guess you don't know much about the Boston suburbs.

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Randolph 61k 28k
Holbrook 62k 33K
Abington 78k 34k
Weymouth 68k 34k
Peabody 64k 34k
Avon 73k 33k
Stoughton 74k 33k
Saugus 76k 34k

I guess you don't know much about the Boston suburbs.

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I'm not familiar with all these places, but I am very familiar with Weymouth and Randolph. Both have large amounts of multi-family and apartment buildings already. So I don't think the law is aimed at them.

Also, do you really consider all of these places to be suburbs of Boston?

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I think people's definition of Boston burbs differs. Some see the burbs as inside 128, others expand it out to I-495, so call it how you see it.

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Less than thirty minutes? HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Medford is fucking 45 minutes by car at rush hour.

Would you prefer that wasteful snob zoning be taxed by the state to support schools in more urban places? You don't get to play the "wahhhhhhh my taxes" card if you aren't doing your share to support society, dear.

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You don't get to play the "wahhhhhhh my taxes" card if you aren't doing your share to support society, dear.

Huh? What did I say to earn that crap? Support society? How do you know whether I'm paying my share?
FWIW, I live in a condo, i.e. a dense development.

Medford is fucking 45 minutes by car at rush hour.

Given the right/wrong conditions, it can take 3 hours to get to Meffah. So, what's your point?

Time for your meds, ma'am.

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I didn't say everyone who lived there had money. I clearly said the people I know who live in those cities have money. I wasn't being scientific, just going by what I know.

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good luck with all that.

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These towns will define multifamily as a McMansion with an inlaw unit or pool house.

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The bill calls for density of at least 20 units per acre.

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which is arguably a suburb of Boston. We've had quite a few new multi-family units go up in the past couple of years. Unfortunately they're all condos and luxury apartment buildings. I'd like to see a bill that prohibits that, especially the latter.

The rent has skyrocketed lately in my (decidedly not luxury) apartment, where I have lived for 15+ years. Market rent is going up, I believe in large part due to those luxury buildings.

It was very working class here, just a few years ago. Now it's hard to find rent under $2000/m for a 2 bedroom. That's here, in Braintree, in Weymouth, even in Randolph (where listings are actually the highest - I was looking there because that's where my kid's school is).

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The construction of nice (or as you call them, "luxury") units? How much do you think a 2 bedroom on the T should cost?

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because that's what they say on the big sign advertising them. It's not my choice of descriptor, and I have no idea how luxurious any actually are.

And many aren't really "on the T." Many went up on the top of a large hill that has bus service something like once an hour, M-F only. Some went up within .5 miles of a bus line that stops running at 7 pm. And many are near no bus line or red line station. Quincy has many many areas not served well (or at all) by the T.

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Any marketing person trying to sell condos that doesn't use the word "luxury" will get fired. Guaranteed. It's a given, regardless of how luxurious the condos really are. You'll see similar marketing in the burbs for developments:
Maplewood Estates
Village at ______ Park
______ Woods

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The Residences at The Lofts at SodoSopa
The Villas At Kenny’s House

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in my current (not Boston) town have fancy names like "Woodside Estates" and "Regency Arms."

About half of them are infested with gang activity and drugs such that the feds do targeted sweeps periodically, and most of the hardworking families who live in them are below the federal poverty line. But hey, it has a cute name and some have a grim motel-style pool, so luxury!

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What is the definition of "working class" that people use here. Is it a more PC term for lower middle class? Sometimes I have heard it used for people in construction, police, fire, etc., but then it really doesn't have anything to do with the amount someone makes, since police and fire make really good money, more than many low level white collar jobs and more than teachers. Does it mean service workers (waiters, people who work in hospitality, etc.), ie. the working poor? Or...

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applies to people who work with their hands (i. e. craftspeople, construction workers, as well as waiters, dishwashers, and hospitality workers, and the working poor.

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Those luxury buildings are being built because the market rent is going up, not the other way around.

And market rent is going up because there aren't enough housing units for all the people who want to live in the Boston metro. So the rent gets bid up by the most affluent.

You could relieve some of the upward pressure on rent with dense development close to the city, but this is actually illegal thanks to local zoning. The bill aims to start changing that.

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Couldn't have said it better myself. Why do so many people seem to think supply and demand doesn't apply to real estate?

There aren't enough dwellings. When there isn't enough of something, the price goes up. When it goes up enough, only the rich will get to have that thing. This is not something open to interpretation.

There hasn't been enough for decades, so our idea of 'normal' growth is stunted, but even all this building we see now is still just not sufficient. Demand is that strong. So it will all go to the wealthy.

Leafy suburbs are GOING to be impacted by this one way or another--whether via multifamily development or the dreaded teardowns. There's too much demand and therefore too much money to be made by developers.

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In inner suburbs that have allowed some apartment complexes, it has led to serious school overcrowding - and not all suburbs are as rich as Dover or Weston. Giving compensation for additional school costs is very helpful, especially because when you zone for multi-family dwellings, all the extra kids tend to go to one elementary school, which may already have full classrooms.

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In one area it was caused by a few (3?) new high-rises in a convenient location (on a bus line, across from Walmart).

Whatever compensation they get from this bill is not likely to solve this problem, unless it's enough to fund major additions or whole new schools.

The solution here was to move the 5th grade in the school serving that neighborhood to the local middle school (elementary is usually k-5 here, and middle 6-8).

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Right, and so long as the compensation actually compensates for the increased numbers of kids (including any needed capital improvements), then I think people will be surprised as to how little resistance there will be to this*.

*I say this as a resident of an allegedly "leafy", "tony" and/or "insert-dog-whistle-word here" suburb.

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We should come up with all sorts of suburban excuses as to why CITIES SHOULD PAY FOR ALL OF THIS and not bother all those sweet wasteful snob zoned havens and their above average kids in their special schools.

Amirite?

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noun. Whatever rubs up against certain busybodies' collectivist sensibilities the wrong way.

Examples: driving a car with a working heater to work win the winter when millions of starving children don't have shoes; owning a single-family home with a yard bigger than the minimum allowable setback on all sides when millions of starving children are living in tents; breathing while not holding dear communist ideology when millions of starving children are dying of tuberculosis and can't get enough oxygen.

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Two acre zoning is destructive and wasteful. That's pretty much a well-established fact in the reality-based community.

https://books.google.com/books?id=Xk06al1sAmUC&dq=why+sprawl+zoning+is+d...

Go buy some waterfront property and forget the flood insurance, why don't ya?

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I don't need to read a cherry-picked academic treatise cover-to-cover to understand that for some unnamed individuals who will remain nameless to protect the self-righteously officious, any arrangement that doesn't leave you smelling your neighbors farts and needing to put bars on the windows is all uniformly bourgeois and evil.

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The bill would require that every city and town plan for multifamily housing and designate areas where it is allowed as-of-right.

Translation: We're effectively going to force suburban towns allow developers to create their own ghettos. My intended use of that term is based on the dictionary definition, and likely target economic demographic for this housing, not as social commentary on those who would be living there. Just need to get that out there, because I know how these comment threads go.

It would also require every community to allow single-family homes clustered on modest lots in compact, walkable neighborhoods surrounded by open space. Cities and towns would be compensated for any net increases in school costs that result from their approval of multifamily and cluster developments.

Commentary: Once upon a time, if you wanted to live like this, you moved to a city. If you wanted a house with a decent sized plot of land, you moved to the 'burbs. Now we're going to force the suburbs to build like cities? GTFO.

This is what happens when you spend years building nothing but luxury housing in the city itself and start having to deal with mass-displacement. Housing shortage my ass. Shortage of housing that the average citizen can afford, however, is an understatement. Because I highly doubt this has magically changed in less than 2 years.

Think about the deal developers have now, where they have the option to pay to build affordable housing "elsewhere" instead of any given shiny new building. The way City Hall and the BRA work, I could absolutely see them building "partnerships" with suburban towns that let developers build affordable housing their in lieu of this, under the guise of doing what's best for the Great Boston community, or some other buzzwordy slogan.

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I love how everyone assumes that "multifamily" equals "poor folks."

Allowing the construction of a 5-unit apartment building in Belmont is hardly "creating a ghetto."

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Density always equates to "problem populations." As we all know, the parts of Boston with the densest residential population--Back Bay, Fenway, and Beacon Hill--are notorious hotbeds of poverty and criminal activity. All those $4K/month studios in the towers around State Street are filled with investment bankers and VC backers who would kill you just as soon as look at you.

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those are the people who are going to move into these, I'm sure. They're not building multi-families for the rich. But the middle class and poor who used to live in them in the city need somewhere to go, I think it's fair to put 2 and 2 together here.

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You are one super duper piece of work if that's your mindset.

Lovely.

How about some actual demographic evidence to back up your claims? Or did they not teach you to use such information as that available at http://www.census.gov at Knuckledragger U?

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I knew the statement would be blown out of context. Because uHub.

When you start building multi families and smaller plots in the suburbs, where there is already an abundance of expensive, larger properties, it is a fair assumption that they will be cheaper. When the reason towns are being forced to do this is because of a housing shortage, why is it not fair to think that many of the people that are being displaced from the city would end up there? This is not a knock on "poor people" at all.

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Okay, I'll grant you that we're talking about housing for people with lower income than currently live in some of those towns.

I'll even grant that some of these people simply don't make enough money to pay more tax than they will run up in school costs for their kids.

So what?

Tell me where in the Bill of Rights it's okay for me to use the government to limit the options available to people making less money than me.

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I never said anything about "problem populations." You did.

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Forcing zoning doesnt mean any developer will want to take advantage of it.

So folks over in the middle, like 30 minutes north of Worcester, dont need to get their panties in a bunch because no one actually wants to build a tower there.

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This is the point that always gets missed in these discussions. Nobody's being forced to build apartments. It's just changing the status quo under which multifamily - or even single-family on small lots - is illegal.

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To make money in building low rent properties, developers will take the money. They don't care where it comes from, it's still green.

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