Big meeting last night to go over a planning professionals day-dream of a perfect community. This is of course, not urban planning but social engineering by the State. By somehow providing homes that are ‘forced’ into the mold of ‘affordable’; we will then have a community that will have the lower income and the higher income mixing it up in perfect harmony.
This farce of course is not what actually happens. This nightmare 40B law allows developers to bypass zoning and building codes and resource provisions and to effectively trample down any hint of quality of life in a community. The developers make a fortune because they save on so many different levels, raking in huge profits – all on the phony concept that 10% of the development will go to affordable housing units. Then, of course, as the Massachusetts Homebuilders Association is rolling on the floor laughing, they roll a semi through the loopholes and the 10% later gets sold as full price.
In the meantime, instead of a perfect community, we have a town or city trashed. I was laughing as Merrimac, unable to support the avalanche of 40B’s is desperately trying to build cisterns for the firemen because there is not enough water to go around. Overwhelmed schools, overwhelmed infrastructure and overwhelmed resources leading to ever higher taxes and utility fees while a very few profit exorbitantly.
The funny thing is that historic preservation has already given us the goal of affordable housing. And by expanding the local historic district, we will see the preservation of those goals.
In the Newburyport Historic District, we have huge homes right next to a couple of small homes and then right after those small homes, we have another huge house and so on. Now assuming that our good real estate standing causes many of these large homes to be converted to single family. It is a trend that has been happening. A wealthy couple comes in and buys a large house. But they find out that next door is a little house owned by a lower income-bracketed person.
You see, human nature makes us want to ‘hang out’ with our own kind. The wealthy want to rub shoulders with other wealthy, middle class with other middle class people, minorities like to hang with their minority and the poor are more comfortable hanging with other poor.
In Newburyport, we have totally foiled that possibility. On my street lives a millionaire – right next door is some rental units – right next door is a successful entrepreneur making good money and right next door is a small house with people just struggling to make ends meet and next door is a senior on a fixed income and next door is a wealthy family and next door to them is…well, you get the picture.
If Newburyport doesn’t have any protections, clever developers are going to come in and join lots together of the small houses, tear down the small houses and then put in larger homes purchased consequently by cash-rich newcomers. It’s already happening in the North End and South End. It will accelerate unless we have some way to stop this trend.
By the time the developers and well-to-do homeowners are done, the rest of us will be lucky to live on the outskirts of West Newbury and Rowley – looking at a very exclusive but no longer historic seaport city.
If you don’t believe me go to Gloucester, Marblehead, Swampscott and look at these communities.
The City will try to implement ‘forced’ affordable housing to get a great diverse community. But the fact is, we already have a great diverse community.
Let’s keep it that way by implementing protections to stop the gentrification of our City.