I’m afraid this important topic may get lost among the election news but the Globe has a story today about a study from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council which refutes the notion that building more housing in the suburbs means more kids in the schools.
This is from the MAPC report…
One of the most widespread worries about new housing development, especially in suburban communities, is that it will drive up school enrollment. Many local officials and residents assume that new housing, and especially new multifamily housing, will attract families – families with children who will inevitably increase enrollment in the local public schools – creating additional education costs outweighing any new revenue the housing generates.
These apprehensions are rooted in the demographic and development patterns of the late 20th century, when Baby Boomers were in their prime child-rearing years. Their residential choices caused housing stock, enrollment, and school expenditures to grow quickly in many suburbs. Many communities even considered limiting housing development in hopes of curbing school budget increases and the need for more tax revenue.
Over the past 15 years, however, multiple studies have examined the enrollment and fiscal impacts of individual housing developments and found that concerns about those impacts are commonly overstated. ….
…We find that the conventional wisdom that links housing production with inevitable enrollment growth no longer holds true. At the district level, we observe no meaningful correlation between housing production rates and enrollment growth over a six-year period. While it is true that schoolchildren occupying new housing units may cause a marginal change in enrollment, they are one small factor among many. In cities and town with the most rapid housing production, enrollment barely budged; and most districts with the largest student increases saw very little housing unit change. The rate of housing unit growth is not a useful predictor of overall enrollment change, nor is rapid housing development a precondition to sudden enrollment increases. It appears that broad demographic trends, parental preferences, and housing availability now play a much larger role in enrollment growth and decline. Our findings raise important issues related to capital planning, education finance, and housing incentive programs.
In Newton, according to the report, our permitted housing stock increased by less than two percent between 2010-16 but our school population rose by seven and a half percent.