Boston.com has a great map of Massachusetts showing the percent of “affordable housing” for all 351 MA cities and towns. You can take a look here and click on any town or scroll down through the complete listing:
There is also a one-question poll which asks the question: Should the government encourage economic diversity in communities through affordable housing laws like 40b? And your possible answers are Yes / No / No opinion/other I have a problem with the question because I DO believe the government should encourage affordable housing. I don’t think affordable housing and economic diversity are exactly the same thing. The two concepts come with different problems and opportunities. I personally KNOW that 40B does not encourage economic diversity, nor does it encourage affordable housing.
If you respond to that question you will see something below that which says
Discuss: Should government encourage economic diversity in communities through affordable housing laws like 40b?
If you read through the comments, you will find mine, some of which I include here below with modifications and additions:
40B is a disaster for cities and towns. The question posed is itself a problem. I firmly believe that the government can help improve the overall economic health of its citizens by encouraging the production and maintenance of “affordable housing.” Unfortunately that is not what 40B does. MA Inspector General Sullivan has completed many studies of 40B projects, calling the law the greatest source of corruption in the Commonwealth and a “pigfest” for developers. (It’s all up there on the web.)
The MA South Shore is 38% wetlands. It was settled in the 1600’s. Over the last 400 years, the good land has been built on. Our strange road systems where you have to go North on Route 3 up to 128 then down 24 to go what should be a straight shot West is due to wetlands, rivers, and stretches of unusable land. In Norwell we had an area on Route 53 that had 30 families renting trailers and small cottages. Very affordable. But a horrible local developer and his builder buddy (Murphy and Sullivan are the names) bought the land, threw the tenants out on the street in a New England February, cleared the land and built LUXURY CONDOS… all under 40B. The town fought it in court, but the land courts and appeals courts are all under the illusion they are promoting “affordable housing.” Karma is such that none of the luxury condos have sold in 2 years. Who wants to live in a condo in a swamp when you can buy a house in the same town for less? These luxury condos are still for sale, look it up. The developer and the builder have moved a few units back and forth between themselves, but nobody is living there. Just so you get the idea:
40B enables developers to bypass zoning bylaws. Those bylaws are there for a reason. Norwell, for example, has town water, but the land is very wet and every home that is built at this point generates further local flooding and requires mounded septic systems. 40B enables a developer to build dense housing on wet land, raising the water table and flooding property for a half mile circle or more around it.
Town Zoning Boards have learned that they cannot “reject” 40B proposals because the housing courts overrule the towns and approve the projects. So Zoning Boards “approve” the 40Bs with enough conditions to protect the town. Those conditions would make construction impossible or unprofitable, so back to court we all go. 40B results in local neighborhoods spending tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers and engineers to demonstrate to the housing court that these dense developments are inappropriate. And still they get approved. Look at the MA South Shore. For the most part we have low levels of “affordable housing.” Those are the reasons why. There is no more buildable land. Certainly not large tracks of it to build 40 to 100 units of dense housing.
Norwell has an Affordable Housing Committee. The best we can do is find small, individual lots and build one or two affordable units at a time. Even that is dependent upon when such properties become available. There is no public transportation in Norwell. There are very few jobs. There is a lot of water and flooding. And we’re fighting 40B for our survival with lawsuits brought by neighbors and the town. This is a nightmare none of us expected. The state government is killing us.
Did I mention traffic? Norwell is a rural town. Because of the wetlands, we have narrow, winding, twisting roads with dense vegetation often right up to the road. The line of sight on these roads is ridiculously small because the road curves away from you so often. The town does not have a drainage system, so they have open trenches alongside many of the roads. That means no place to pull off. No shoulders on the road. If you are forced off the road or you skid off the road you land in the drainage ditch or you hit a stone wall, a tree, or a telephone pole.
Just as a point of information, the above accident – one of many at that very spot – is on Forest Street in Norwell. As I type this there are two, count them…2, telephone poles on this one mile long street that are now double poles because Verizon knows how often they are hit. And, by the way, that car crashed about 20 feet from where a road into a new 40B project is proposed. Want to see this same piece of road after a rainstorm (the broken telephone pole is just off to the left):
That house has been bought by the developer proposing the 40B project. It is scheduled to be torn down to put in a road to access the project. Get the idea? Water is a problem. Traffic is a problem. It will only get worse. This is 40B in Norwell, Massachusetts. Well meaning, but a nightmare for cities and towns on the South Shore. And a nightmare for other MA cities and towns, too, just a slightly different nightmare.
I’ve been trying to get Governor Deval Patrick to recognize the problems caused by 40B since BEFORE he was elected. I explained the problem to him at campaign rallies before his election. I’ve mentioned it to him since then. He doesn’t want to hear it. The only person on Beacon Hill who is fighting for the South Shore against 40B is the Republican state senator Robert Hedlund. That’s Senator Hedlund and Governor Patrick in the photo above at a speech the governor gave in Hull back in the summer of 2008. I wore my green 2006 Deval Patrick campaign tshirt so he’d know I was a supporter. (Dear Ghod, it’s a horrible photo, but there it is.) None of the three candidates for governor in 2010 will say anything about 40B. Officially they are all FOR it. It is a complex subject and nobody wants to be caught with a sound bite that might be against “affordable housing.” It’s a complicated subject.
This fall, let’s REPEAL 40B. Encourage your state level politicians to pass some better legislation. Stop this “pigfest” for developers. Last year proponents of repealing 40B needed around 65,000 signatures to put it on the ballot statewide. They gathered around 85,000. The state threw out about half of those signatures, so the petition was not on the ballot last year. This year another grassroots effort has gone forward to repeal this miscarriage of justice and hopefully it will be on the ballot statewide this fall.
We need to replace 40B legislation with something that works. We need affordable housing in Massachusetts. 40B is not the way to do it.
Note: Repeal 40B signature collection ended Wednesday June 23rd and by all reports, we are well over the 11,099 needed to put 40B repeal on the November ballot.
A tweet from @dougknowles76 – also of Norwell, MA – provides some corrections to the original July, 2008 slide presentation. The West End Way 40B was originally proposed as 40 units; Silver Brook finished at 30 units, with 8 classified as affordable. I will assume he is correct. The original slide presentation is located as a Slideshare upload: Experiencing 40B in Norwell, MA http://bit.ly/atKRQQ Presentation to MA Housing & Community Development Agency in Boston, July, 2008.