On housing supply, the more things change…
To understand what holds back the state’s economy, and what causes young families who are otherwise drawn to Massachusetts life to flee for greener pastures, check out this piece by Jay Fitzgerald from the Sunday Globe.
The biggest threat to the state’s economy is not taxes and business regulation but the sky-high cost of housing, which undercuts our competitiveness with other regions and puts enormous financial strain on those who opt to stay. Unless something has suddenly undone the ironclad law of supply and demand, it’s clear that the biggest factor driving high prices is the incredibly constricted supply of new housing. Why the short supply? Cities and towns often like it that way.
Citing all sorts of reasons — from added school costs from more kids to traffic and other factors — the reflexive reaction to many housing proposals is, no.
Where the door is opened a crack, it’s often with a eye toward senior housing that will bring no kids, as in a Sudbury project Fitzgerald spotlights.
Indeed, the most depressing aspect to the story is that it is, in fact, an old story. CommonWealth put a spotlight on all these same factors in this cover story — 13 years ago. Then-state Sen. David Magnani offered the evocative term “vasectomy zoning,” to describe the various maneuvers by towns to ensure that no school-age children would accompany new growth.
In another CommonWealth story nine years ago, Clark Ziegler, head of the nonprofit Massachusetts Housing Partnership, and Jeff Rhuda of Symes Associates, a Beverly home builder, both sound off. How little have things changed? They are both quoted in yesterday’s Globe story, with variations on the same lament they offered nearly a decade ago.
“We just do not have the ability to build housing in Massachusetts, at least east of Worcester, that fits the median income buyer,” Rhuda said back in 2006. The take he offers today to Fitzgerald: “Housing construction has just gotten worse and worse and worse in Massachusetts.”
While lots of the resistance is centered in suburban towns, cities are hardly immune to the NIMBY reflex. In Boston, at least, the city is trying to be the engine, not the obstacle, to badly needed housing. But it’s still not easy.
Residents and local elected officials are up in arms over the recent city zoning approval given to a developer who wants to knock down a two-family housing unit in Dorchester and build seven three-bedroom townhouses on the site. An official from the local civic organization tells the Dorchester Reporter that the group has not been anti-development, and points to its support of a new restaurant and 20-unit housing development nearby. Still, it’s probably safe to say Mayor Marty Walsh won’t be able to hit his stated goal of building 53,000 new housing units in the city by 2030 without overruling local objections to projects.
The problem in lots of other communities is that the powers that be are all too happy with the way things are.
Gov. Charlie Baker, whose statement last week that he was not interested in accepting Syrian refugees drew demonstrators to the State House on Friday night, said yesterday the state and the country should welcome refugees — he just wants more questions answered about the vetting process. (Boston Herald) The New York Times details the 20-step process that can take up to two years before Syrian refugees enter the country.
The Globe says a “dysfunctional Legislature” has sputtered to the close of business for the year, with lots of big issues left on the table. The dysfunction all seems to be in the House, and several state senators vent their frustrations about it, with Sen. Ken Donnelly calling out Speaker Robert DeLeo‘s “very autocratic, very controlling style of leadership” as to blame. CommonWealth previously spotlighted the do-little Legislature’s 2015 record here and here.
Advocates on Beacon Hill, worried that grassroots ballot campaigns are being swamped by corporate money, are pushing legislation that would cap how much people and corporations can donate to ballot initiatives. (Eagle-Tribune)
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll says the no-bid contract negotiated with the developer of a sports complex at Essex Technical High School is too one-sided. (Salem News)
With winter coming, Gloucester comes up with $1.4 million to reduce its $2.6 million debt from last winter. (Gloucester Times)
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has a bundle of new plans, including a mobile city hall and dealing with abandoned buildings. (MassLive)
A Lowell Sun editorial raises alarms about the state’s fledgling casino industry and its ability to bring in forecasted revenues. In yesterday’s Globe, Yvonne Abraham says the state’s dive into the casino world is already showing signs of being a bad bet.
The Republican travels to Atlantic City to find out how it’s done and Harrah has one word for them: conventions. (MassLive)
What Brussels and Boston have in common: the lockdown. (Christian Science Monitor.)
Donald Trump doubled down on his call for a database of refugees and monitoring mosques and added a new twist: He claimed to watch “thousands and thousands” of people cheering in Jersey City, New Jersey, as the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001, even though there has never been any reports of such a celebration. (New York Times) The Washington Post Fact Checker adds another four Pinocchio designation to Trump’s long list of them.
The Boston Herald‘s Kimberly Atkins says Hillary Clinton is moving to the right of her former boss and pushing a more aggressive approach to dealing with ISIS.
The National Review says John Bel Edwards’s defeat of US Sen. David Vitter for governor in Louisiana is no sign of a Democratic party revival but a reflection on how flawed a candidate Vitter was. Still, the victory gives the Democratic Party a presence in the Republican deep South. (Governing)
A recount confirmed Anne Beauregard as the winner for a seat on the Brockton City Council, with Beauregard picking up two votes for a three-vote victory over Ollie Spears, who lost on a recount for the second consecutive election. (The Enterprise)
The Baker administration is mounting an all-out economic development effort targeting long-struggling Lynn, a waterfront city close to Boston that officials say is ripe for revival. (Boston Globe)
WBUR profiles a Bostonian who quit his job and developed an algorithm that helped him win $3 million playing daily fantasy sports. Meanwhile, experts say fantasy sports play is a dangerous path for compulsive gamblers. (New York Times)
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has reached agreement with Ireland-based Allergan on a $160 billion merger deal that would create the world’s biggest drug manufacturer and save Pfizer billions in taxes by moving its headquarters overseas. (New York Times)
A report from the liberal Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center says an analysis of data from the Census Bureau and federal Bureau of Economic Analysis shows Massachusetts in the middle of the pack for tax burden, ranking 24th. (GateHouse News)
The real estate company Redfin finds that Boston is the most economically integrated city in the country. (Boston Business Journal)
Sunday’s New York Times featured a front-page look at the surprising turn away from the PARCC test by Massachusetts under Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. The story followed much of the same track as this CommonWealth takeout from the fall issue and this story reporting on Chester’s October surprise pullback from PARCC.
Brian Shortsleeve, the MBTA’s chief administrator, says uncollected fares are costing the transit agency a lot of money. (State House News)
Solar advocate Emily Rochon explains why net metering is not a subsidy. (CommonWealth)
Protests are mounting against the deer hunt in the Blue Hills Reservation, and animal welfare experts argue that the state has not considered non-lethal methods of reducing the deer population like contraception. Meanwhile, the Cape Cod National Seashore revives a plan to kill predators, such as racoons and skunks, that eat piping plovers.
A dozen Boston police officers have faced 20 or more citizen complaints over the last 20 years, the Globe reports, and some cases take years to resolve.
A 48-year old Norton man was shot and killed in a standoff with police. (Associated Press)
A 21-year-old babysitter is being charged with the abduction of a Hamilton toddler who was found beaten by the side of the road. (Salem News)
Kevin Cullen says the makers of Spotlight stained the reputation of Jack Dunn, a member of the Boston College High School board of trustees, by portraying him as looking to cover-up clergy sex abuse when he in fact pushed for it to be brought into the open. (Boston Globe) Also with beefs about how they are portrayed in the movie are former Globe reporter Steve Kurkjian and the paper’s former publisher, Richard Gilman. (Boston Herald)Smith College reviews its media policies after students banned reporters from a sit-in held in support of University of Missouri’s students of color. (MassLive)
More than 1,000 people attend the funeral for Ezra Schwartz, the Sharon 18-year-old gunned down in a terrorist attack last week on the West Bank. (Boston Globe)