Consider the Schools: Add More Housing

Jennifer Susse authored this letter on January 20, 2020. Ms. Susse is a member of the Arlington School Committee and a Town Meeting Member. She closely follows the costs and demographic trends of school enrollment and of Town finances.

I write in support of efforts to increase housing in Arlington, both as a resident and as a member of the School Committee. I support these efforts not in spite of their potential effects on our schools, but because of their potential effects on both schools and town.

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Design Ideas for Transit Corridors-Pike/Pine District

Seattle finds new tools to preserve neighborhood character in the Pike / Pine Corridor of the city. Arlington has its own neighborhood districts that are now being re-thought with new planning for the neighborhoods’ future. These include the Broadway Corridor, the Mass Ave. Transit Corridor and Arlington Heights.

The tools here include samples for what Arlington might do, “overlay District”, Transfer of Development Potential (TDP).  A TDP provides incentives

for property owners to keep existing “character structures” rather than tear them down. A Conservation Core was also established within the district to further ensure that new development is more compatible with the special scale and character of existing development in this area. They also prepared Design Guidelines, Zoning Ordinance, Environmental Review Checklist, Cultural Overlay District, “Center Village” Plan, Inventory of Historic Resources, etc.

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Transit Corridor Strategy for More Housing

from Karen Kelleher, Reporter

Interested in new policy developments on housing production in the Greater Boston area? The latest research from Mass Housing Partnership (MHP) is of interest.  They just released (Dec. 18, 2019) in interactive map showing relative housing density around every mass transit and commuter rail station in the system, concluding that the region could add 235,000 units if every community allowed density as of right in the area around transit.

CHAPA has legislation pending that would require municipalities served by transit to allow higher density as of right within a certain distance from transit stations. You’ll see that the density around Alewife is not too bad in the context of the entire system.

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Minneapolis Zones for Diversity

Minneapolis is the most recent governmental entity to disrupt the almost 110 year old idea of local zoning in America by overriding single family zoning. Zoning was developed in the the early 1900’s to control property rights and, in part, to limit access to housing by race. These early laws were upheld by the courts in the 1930’s and the use of zoning to control private property for the interests of the majority became common. Houston Texas did not adopt zoning, an outlier in the nation.

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10 Great Illegal Neighborhoods

This report shows a number of great, livable neighborhoods in communities like Lexington, Cohasset, Great Barrington, etc. where under the municipality’s “official” zoning, the neighborhoods would be illegal and could not exist. These are neighborhoods that residents enjoy for a variety of special characteristics that would have been blocked in typical zoning. Zoning can result in a too homogeneous community, excluding the serendipities of co-location in a land use development process evolving over a great many years. Can we anticipate these synergies and include them to enrichen our town’s neighborhoods?

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The State of Zoning for Multi-Family Housing in Greater Boston

(published June, 2019)

Overview

To solve the extraordinarily large deficit in housing for the greater Boston region, over 180,000 units of new housing should come on line in the next few years. This deficit is the result of a rapid expansion in in-migration due to new job creation, with no commensurate increase in housing production for the people taking those new jobs.

The report concludes that zoning is a primary culprit in restricting the development of an adequate housing supply, creating a “PAPER WALL” keeping out newcomers. The cost of this inadequate supply is a huge demand for housing which, in turn, bids up the price for available housing. The following “culprits” are considered: inadequate land area zoned for multi-family housing; low density zoning; age restrictions and bedroom restrictions; excessive parking requirements; mixed use requirements and approval processes. Alternative zoning models are suggested.

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