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LarkinRealEstateAt the rate that teardowns have been happening for years, it seems that many houses must have a negative value, with the value of the property being higher as a buildable lot than with a house on it. It looks like it’s about to happen in my relatively modest neighborhord. The house in this photo has been vacant for a couple of years, it looks like the prior owners’ son bought it for $1, there are DigSafe marks all over the street, and now the sewer’s been disconnected.

Recently, someone I know in Newton Highlands got one of those ‘want to sell your house?’ letters that said it didn’t matter what condition it’s in, which she interpreted, not happily, as being told her house is a teardown.

I’m not sure what square footage in Newton is worth now, but I just had another indication it’s going NewtonvillePikeup. I recently met Jack Leader, the candidate for Ward 2 ward alderman, at our 40th Newton High School reunion. One of his issues is, where are people our age going to live when we get (pick your term) old/elderly? We were talking about the Austin Street parcel (he was on the Joint Advisory Planning Group committee that developed the criteria for developers’ proposals to meet) as the type of housing that would be desirable for empty-nesters and pre-nesters. Another classmate said, that’s 18 units, where are the rest of us going to live, and Jack offered as one possibility, that the new owners of Shaw’s Supermarkets want to talk about developing their air rights over the Turnpike in Newtonville into some kind of multi-use project, residential, commercial, with parking. Interested to the extent of being willing to put in elevators to make not just the Newtonville commercial rail stop handicap-accessible, but also West Newton!

Maybe this is old news to people more up on development issues than I am (as well as being Mike Striar’s dream), but it was news to me. Given the discussion here a few months ago about the economics of air rights development, it makes me think acreage in Newton must really be going up in value.

I wonder, though, if the ‘empty-nester’ housing that everyone seems to want, will only accelerate the teardown phenomenon, which may be inevitable anyway absent some change in zoning. If the only thing keeping some people in houses larger than they need, is the lack of a smaller place in Newton to move to, providing that smaller option could speed up the loss of (relatively) affordable houses, and their replacement by the largest thing a developer can build. It’s great for the seller who is cashing out, and the developer making a profit, but what will it turn Newton into?

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