Putting out a welcome mat for housing

Greater Boston’s booming housing market may be lucrative to real estate speculators, but the constricted supply of housing isn’t helping those who make long-term investments in their homes, according to a Boston city councilor and housing advocates.

Councilor Lydia Edwards, who chairs the Housing and Community Development Committee and represents East Boston, Charlestown, and the North End, said that if housing production (including affordable housing production) rises to a rate that better meets demand, speculators might be hurt but ordinary homeowners will gain a more long-term perspective on their investments.

“What we’re seeing is an inflation of that value and people buying in like it’s the new stock market in order to get a return that is just unheard of even on Wall Street on housing that they’re not occupying or even – sometimes – renting out,” Edwards said. “If that’s your goal, to make that kind of return on your investment, yes, building a lot more units might actually hurt that.”

Edwards joined Chris Norris, executive director of Metro Housing Boston, and Eric Shupin, the director of public policy for the Citizens Housing and Planning Association, on the Codcast.

Shupin agreed that ordinary homeowners would not be financially damaged if housing became more accessible, and he said the greater risk is the status quo, which could drive scores of people out of the region because they cannot afford to live here.

“If we keep things as they are, we’re all going to lose,” Shupin said. “Workers are going to lose because they’re not going to be able to afford to stay here. Business are going to lose because they won’t have the workers they can employ, and certainly our lowest income families will be hurt the most.”

Advocates, state lawmakers, and Gov. Charlie Baker have all homed in on housing as an area of legislative focus this session, and while the governor has accumulated a broad coalition for his narrowly tailored bill to change zoning processes, there is some appetite for more forceful measures.
The governor’s bill, dubbed housing choices, would lower the two-thirds vote threshold for municipal bodies to approve multifamily developments, but those decisions would still be left to city and town governments.

“The governor’s bill doesn’t require any community to do anything,” Shupin said.

Edwards, Shupin, and Norris want lawmakers to lower that threshold, and also make several other changes to support affordable housing production. Edwards said the governor’s bill would not lower the two-thirds threshold for municipalities to add affordable housing requirements to developments.

Many housing advocates around the state have rallied support for a competing bill filed by Reps. Andy Vargas of Haverhill and Kevin Honan of Boston, the co-chairs of the Housing Committee in the Legislature. The bill would lower the threshold for zoning changes, mandate multifamily housing around MBTA stations, and make it more difficult for abutters to sue to stop a housing development.

Looking beyond what is on the table in Massachusetts, Shupin noted, Minneapolis has “banned single-family zoning,” which he said would create more housing by encouraging the development of duplexes and triple-deckers.

One reason why there hasn’t been more of a push to solve the area’s housing crisis, according to Norris, is because the people it would help the most are not reliable voters. “Poor people vote at lower rates than people who are wealthy, and the folks that elect our elected officials end up with policies that favor them,” Norris said.

ANDY METZGER


BEACON HILL

House Speaker Robert DeLeo ripped the Massachusetts Teachers Association for resorting to “juvenile tactics” in its push for more education funding after the union’s president, Merrie Najimy, posted a photo on Facebook of herself and three other women wearing fake pearls with a caption, “Alice Peisch, let go of the wealth and #FundOurFuture.” House education chair Alice Peisch, a Wellesley Democrat, frequently wears pearl necklaces. (State House News)

Tom Colyer, a farmer from Hubbardston, slams the House for passing a budget provision that tweaks a law that was passed by voters setting floor space for egg-laying hens. (CommonWealth)

Jeremy Thompson of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center says the state’s overtime law needs an overhaul. (CommonWealth)

Several state agencies appear to be violating the state public records law by refusing to release 911 calls. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter says he wants the state Department of Public Utilities to compel National Grid to make immediate repairs following their response to two manhole covers exploding. (Brockton Enterprise)

Lawrence S. DiCara and Conor Ahern say municipalities need to stop zoning out children. (CommonWealth)

A growing and largely hidden number of Massachusetts families are having trouble getting enough to eat as parents grapple with rising home prices, stagnant wages and ever more expensive child care. (Patriot Ledger)

ELECTIONS

As of last week, there were 65 candidates for Boston City Council. (WGBH)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Amazon is suing Braintree over a requirement the town put in an agreement with the retail behemoth that contractors driving to and from a planned warehouse in Braintree have markings on their vehicle indicating they are working for Amazon. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Telegram & Gazette columnist Clive McFarlane blasts a state-brokered New Bedford deal paving the way for a charter school expansion city officials had originally opposed. “The charter school law, like a parasite, continues to eat away at the financial strength of traditional public schools,” he says.

Sam Tyler and Pam Kocher, the former and current president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, say the Boston teachers contract now being negotiated must include terms designed to address the student achievement gap. (Boston Globe)

Rachelle Cohen says UMass president Marty Meehan’s budget “whining” is getting old. (Boston Globe) But a Globe editorial sides with Meehan in chiding the Senate budget’s freeze on UMass tuition and fees.
While lots of transgender people face bullying or find themselves ostracized, Barnstable High School senior Nick Bulman has been widely embraced by the school community — and is vying to be named prom king. (Boston Herald)

Black billionaire Robert Smith announced as he was delivering the commencement address at Morehouse College that he was going to pay off all the college debt of the entire graduating class, a pledge that may be worth about $10 million. (Washington Post) Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy, who was the commencement speaker at his alma mater, Trinity College in Hartford, offers every graduate a pair of tickets to next Monday’s Sox game. (The Day)

The Marlborough school system opts out of the state’s school choice program. (MetroWest Daily News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Key facts are being omitted from the debate over surprise billing, says David L. Gang, president of the Massachusetts Society of Pathologists. (CommonWealth)

ARTS/CULTURE

Beyond Walls and MassDevelopment unveil plans for a temporary waterfront park if they can raise at least $50,000. (Daily Item)

TRANSPORTATION

Christine Banning of the National Parking Association warns against congestion pricing. (CommonWealth)

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is calling for an investigation of Chinese railway car maker CRRC, raising concerns about security issues with its control systems. (Associated Press) It’s an issue state Rep. Shawn Dooley of Norfolk starting raising last year. (CommonWealth)

Cape Air CEO and former state senator Dan Wolf is still aiming to launch Boston to New York seaplane service, but he has yet to nail down a landing and takeoff spot on Boston’s waterfront. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

No commercial fisherman in New Bedford wants offshore wind, according to Port Director Edward Washburn, but he nevertheless thinks offshore wind “can be an opportunity that aligns with and co-exists with the commercial fishing industry.” (WGBH)

Members of the Falmouth Planning Board are questioning a proposal for a 7.3-megawatt ground-mounted solar installation, concerned about potential noise or visual impact to the area. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS

Wynn Resorts says it’s in talks with MGM to possibly sell its Everett casino to the company only weeks before its scheduled opening, a move that would turn the state’s gambling industry upside down. (Boston Globe) Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno says MGM President Bill Hornbuckle assured him the city would have a major say if any deal moves forward. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Darrell Jones, who was freed in 2017 after a conviction marred by racial prejudice three decades ago, will go on trial again Tuesday for a 1986 Brockton murder. (WBUR)

Shawn McCarthy, a 48-year-old school van driver who injured a 13-year-old girl in a crash in Haverhill, has been charged with driving under the influence of drugs. His lawyer said he was on medication for diabetes and takes sleeping pills at night. (Eagle-Tribune)

John Jones, who murdered a Gloucester man 36 years ago when he was 17, has been granted parole. (Gloucester Daily Times)

MEDIA

Irene Li, who operates Mei Mei Street Kitchen and Mei Mei Restaurant, reports that chefs and writers have been pleasantly surprised by the diversity of new restaurant critics at major publications across the country. (WBUR)