A big part of the debate in Newton has been around housing density. We don’t talk about it that way, but that’s what it comes down to: how many units fit on an acre of land. A group of researchers mapped the MBTA stations around the MBTA and said that if we just increase density from 6.4 units per acre to 10 units, we can create 253,000 more units.
Researchers at the organization studied and mapped development patterns around 284 stations on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s rapid transit and commuter rail lines and found that more than 517,000 houses and apartments are within a half-mile of a station. About 253,000 more could be added if land around all of the transit system’s stations averaged 10 housing units per acre, instead of the current 6.4.
Riverside comes in, currently, at 2.3 units per acre. I’m not sure what the current proposal comes to. Newton Highlands comes in at 4, West Newton at 3.6, Newtonville at 5, Newton Centre at 3.2, Chestnut Hill at 1.9. All are well below average for the region. In fact, if you head over to the graphing data it shows how the density on the D Line drops as you leave Boston. The most fascinating station, to me, is actually Longwood, which accounts for just 764 units. I recently saw a map by a company that combines data in Boston from different sources and one map showed where housing is built well under FAR. Longwood showed up bright red on the map as a place that, according to the existing zoning, is vastly under-built.