Housing (cont.)


Thomas Lifson's take on housing policy is interesting. I have been an elected official in a surburban Boston community for over 20 years. One of the most aggravating state programs ever foisted on the suburbs is called chapter 40B affordable housing.

The essence of this program is to achieve ten percent affordable housing in every community. This goal is accomplished by overturning local zoning and increasing density on a particular site by a factor of as much 20 units per acre. The units would then be then counted as affordable for a period of 15 to 20 years, or as long as the financing was in place. The units then came off the affordable list, and the community now faces being again under the 10% threshold and the process could begin all over again.

This program was called "anti snob zoning" legislation. If you took any time to criticize it you naturally were anti poor and against "young people" being able to afford to live in your community or other well to do places. This was nonsense, since the most affluent communities were able to avoid the building of units because of very high land prices and expensive legal strategies designed to prevent them.

The communities that got the bulk of these were desirable suburban communities that lacked additional space for new construction, but which had strong demand for housing due to good schools and other advantages. The poorer communities that had properties needing gentrification and those with available space for redevelopment were ignored by the politicians and the developers lobby. Profits are not high enough because there was no unmet demand. Places such as New Bedford, Lawrence, Fall River could greatly benefit by an "affordable housing plan" and additional commercial development, but are not helped by chapter 40B. There is very little talk about promoting home ownership in these areas or increasing equity for the poor.

The program is all about increasing density in attractive places because the rents are higher and the resale value better when they go condo after the affordability expires.

Just as an aside, it is hard to imagine that Massachusetts has a housing crisis for its residents when we are one of the few states that actually lost population.

You know of course where the bulk of the contributions from pro development organizations go. In Massachusetts the proponents of this legislation were the Democrats.

Phil Gallagher   8 09 05