Coming just a day after Thanksgiving, today’s Boston Globe’s headline story really rang a bell with me. I think everybody already knows that Boston and MA are extremely high rent city/state and steadily getting worse. I think everyone also knows that homelessness is on the rise. Even so, the series of statistics in the Globe article were startling.
* 10,00 people recently applied for a lottery for 73 housing vouchers
* One in four renters in Mass will spend at least half their household income in rent
* Homeless population is increasing faster than in any other state in the country
* 5000 families in emergency shelters and motels in Mass
* Rate of new housing production is among the lowest in the country
In recent months’, with good reason, there’s been lots of discussion and concerns raised here on Village14, in the Newton Tab and elsewhere about the pace and direction of new development across the city. Even here in Upper Falls, where the Historic District regulations enforce the most restrictive rules on development, there are five houses within a block or two of me being gutted rebuilt/expanded. Elsewhere across the city where bigger developments are being considered – e.g. Austin St, Court St, Turtle Lane, Wells Ave citizens have been very concerned about what each of these projects will do to their neighborhoods.
In general, it’s a good thing that citizens care deeply about the city and maintaining it’s character. Whether we allow more development or less development, it’s a good thing that citizens are very actively involved in trying to steer that ship. Sometimes though it’s too easy to get a bit myopic when thinking about these issues. I know that personally, when thinking about anything going on in my own little neighborhood, the bigger picture and bigger issue can easily recede into the background.
So on the day after Thanksgiving, when confronted by the jaw-dropping statistics above, I’m hoping both I and everyone else in the city can keep in mind the larger crisis in housing when weighing all of our local development issues – everything from specific projects to the kind of development our zoning rules should encourage. Even though no single Newton project is going to make a noticeable dent in any of those statistics, the only way these larger housing issues can begin to be addressed is if all of us, in every town, begin to factor in these issues in every development decision we make.