Housing as Economic Imperative

WBUR reports today on a Metropolitan Area Planning Council presentation to state lawmakers on the dire need for housing supply to sustain the economy:

By 2040, Massachusetts will need about half a million additional residential units, analysts told lawmakers Tuesday as they advocated for increased housing production to go along with the state’s growing economy.

Metropolitan Area Planning Council assistant data services director Tim Reardon said most of this housing demand will be in urban areas, and two-thirds of it will be for multifamily housing, a type of development limited or discouraged in much of the state.

(emphasis added).

We recognize that development to accommodate new residents is often a controversial topic — in Roslindale and just about everywhere else in Greater Boston. Even where people recognize the crisis in general, they would much prefer that the solution happen somewhere else. But the need is there and the development will happen whether we like or not.

We do, however, have a critical choice to make: are we going to add another million cars to our already fully maxed out transportation infrastructure (2 cars per new housing unit) — another three or four million free parking spaces[1]? An extra hour (or two) added to the car commute downtown from inner ring suburbs?

Or we can go in another direction, and build with a dedicated focus on pedestrian/bike/transit access, and enhance all those other modes of moving around so that people who prefer not to be stuck in a motor vehicle for hours a day aren’t forced to.

Development, walkability, and vibrant streets and communities all can go hand-and-hand. Rather than fight to stop every new project, we believe we should speak up to make every new project better for the community. We’re working on some development principles that we think will advance this goal, and hope our neighbors will join us in refining and then advancing those principles.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Land-use planner Victor Gruen estimates that every car has at least one parking space at home and three or four waiting elsewhere to serve the same car; Centers for the Urban Environment: Survival of the Cities, 1973, page 89; Further info: Podcast on the Gruen Effect

7 thoughts to “Housing as Economic Imperative”

  1. Saying Housing is an economic imperative shows the addiction to money some planners conceded. I respectfully suggest Housing is a humanitarian imperative. And that leads me to disagree with the “two directions/choices” presented. There is a third direction. Freeze development in place that alters the character of the neighborhood and the residents that chose to live there for the character the neighborhood possessed. Over-development and increases in density bring with it increased energy consumption, increased effluent pollutions, increased deal water consumption and its axiomatic waste water treatment requirements. There is a direct increase in municipal services to the increased population – and thereby causing the urban centers to pursue even more development for ever-more revenue.

    1. Walter I’m with you 100%. I would bet the majority of Roslindale feels the same way. This group does have some good ideas but saying adding housing will cure the problems is not 1 of them.

  2. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council work is exhaustively researched and well supported by data. We might have a constructive discussion if you can point to specific flaws in their data or errors in their methodology. I’d also suggest your view is common around the region–many would like to freeze development where they live and not have to share their space. So where are the new people supposed to go? Anywhere but here?

    A development freeze would (1) demonstrably hurt our business district, which struggles under current conditions due to insufficient foot traffic; this ultimately favors large chains over small business due to the former’s lower overhead costs and (2) push home ownership and rental costs ever higher due to the simple law of supply and demand, thus leaving us with a neighborhood that will become less and less diverse in all respects.

    I’m also unaware of any evidence to support your hypothesis that density increases energy consumption and pollution. The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming; a few quick examples:

    …and hundreds more.

    Finally, City policy is now absolutely pro-growth. A development freeze isn’t going to happen. We should be putting our energies toward smart and sustainable growth that doesn’t cripple our transportation system, rather than pretending there is a possibility it won’t happen at all. More specifically, rather than following the historical road-map where a developer proposes 20 units for a lot and is bargained down to 18 (having expected that would happen when he made the original proposal), let’s keep the 20 units and demand a chunk of what would have been foregone profit (in this example, perhaps half a million dollars) be invested in enhancing the neighborhood through walkability and transit improvements, beautification, and the like.

  3. I agree with everything that walkup wrote just there. One thing to add: rejecting development in Roslindale bears the strong stink of pulling up the ladder behind you. Imagine what would have happened, Mr. Michalik, had the then-current residents of Roslindale said to you, “Sorry, no more” when you moved there. You would have been denied the right to live in the place to which you’ve given your life.

    Of course no one is saying that potential new residents of Roslindale should be barred at the border. But stopping development is tantamount to locking the doors. Boston is a desirable place to live these days, and everyone seems to accept that we’re going to get new residents. Will those new residents face higher and higher housing prices, or will we make Boston a place where new families and lower-income folks can start a life?

    It’s also disheartening to see that some people view it as a liability that Boston is a desirable place to live. We should view this as an asset; we should be ecstatic. After decades when Boston’s population declined or lay moribund, it’s finally on the rebound (see http://stevereads.com/2015/01/15/note-to-boston-our-population-still-has-a-ways-to-go/ ). People want to live here. What are we going to tell them? “You can live here, so long as you agree to trap Boston in amber for all time”?

    And as walkup pointed out: stopping development in Boston doesn’t mean that the demand magically vanishes. Instead, those folks who wanted to move to Boston will move elsewhere — and the places they move will, in all likelihood, be in cheaper, less-dense suburbs where they’ll consume all the resources that Mr. Michalik laments. They’ll still need water and sewer and electricity, but now they’ll use those things in towns where they also have to drive to the grocery store. In Roslindale they’ll be able to walk to most everything they need, and take mass transit to the rest.

    Roslindale is a wonderful place to live, and people want to honor that. Let’s help them.

    1. if you want to add new residents you need to fix the problems first.The school system is horrible, there is no parking, the square storefronts are half empty. Roslindale was and is for the most part a family oriented town, if its condos and and studios your looking for Southie, Charlestown, and downtown is full of them. Families have cars and you cant add large apartment buildings without ample parking. At some point things get filled up and yes it will have to go somewhere else, it happens . Ido know that since they started adding all the new condo,s,apartments and studios, the rent for the commercial space in the square has skyrocketed.

  4. i agree with walter, i think the facts that walkup is finding are the ones they want to find to support their feelings. if you strongly feel that way then take a vote on it. There was a rezoning efffffort for a reason.if you want to build energy eficient sustainable housin it comes at a high cost , more than traditional building methods which in turn gets pet on the consumer. you have no idea what the outcome of the new housing will bring. you can state every fact and data source you want but every single example is diferent. i remember years ago when they did this exhaustive study and design on the intersection at belgrade and corinth ( the island with the wind sculpture) and it was a disaster, so my point there is every situation is diiferent. How about put a freeze and see what happens with all the new units going in. you have no idea how it is going to efect the area.Roslindale cant support the whole world. so at some point you have to put a freeze on building. 30 years ago even 20 years ago Rossi had alot of grren space that is now gone and we will not get back.i bet if you took a vote the majority of Rossi residents would rather have the green space back than have a giant apartment building. do you know how many new units were added in the last 10 years. alot. One thing i do know , driving into Rossi square down washington street doesn’t feel the same anymore now that the new commercial building next the library is in and the big apartment building. it once felt more like as they like to call it now a village , but to me feels obtrusive and and congested.

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