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.