Developers- A Dirty Word?

Last Spring, as Town Meeting considered zoning options for increasing the amount of housing, including affordable housing in Arlington, some citizens rallied against this effort. The reason: Housing is built by developers. Developers are greedy and can not be trusted. Ergo the community must prohibit developers. But much of the Arlington now cherished was planned and built by developers.

This article from the New York Times helps shed a perspective on the role of developers and suggests ways they are critically important to improving and revitalizing communities over time. Yes some developers’ interests may diverge from the community’s interests. Clear land use planning and regulations make it a better opportunity for both sides. Good developers bring skills in planning, finance, architecture and community engagement. They work with the risk that if they do the job well, they make some money. They could lose money. They don’t get paid by the hour. Both sides, community and developer, take risks. But there are rewards for each side too when the sides work together.

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Arlington & Exclusionary Zoning History

A report by Mass Housing Partnership’s Shelly Goehring looks at Arlington’s housing development history and policies to understand how municipal action and inaction can contribute to housing inaffordability and can limit the population diversity within a community. The report implies that it has been difficult historically for reputable housing developers to work with the regulatory structure within Arlington to get housing built.

Massachusetts has the nation’s 2nd largest gap in homeownership between households of color (31% own homes) and white households (69% own homes).

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The Cost of Housing in Arlington

(This post originally appeared as a one-page handout, distributed at The State of Zoning for Multi-Family Housing in Greater Boston.)

Source: Arlington, MA 2018 Annual Report

This chart shows the assessed value of Arlington’s low density housing from 2015–2019 (assessed values generally reflect market values from two years prior). During this time, home values increased between 39% (single-family homes) and 48% (two-family homes). Most of the change comes from the increasing cost of land. As a point of comparison, the US experienced 7.7% inflation during the same period. (1)

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Arlington Report on Demolitions & Replacement Homes

(DRAFT – 7/11/2019)


prepared by Arlington Planning & Community Development Dept.

Arlington Planning Department officials report on options for the Town to mitigate the effects of housing demolitions and housing replacements in neighborhoods.

Evidence suggests that lack of appropriate regulatory policies have led to incidences of “mcmansions” and other issues that concern neighborhood residents. This study looks at the data, the policy and regulatory options for Arlington. It also looks at how comparable nearby communities have managed similar circumstances.

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