I actually don’t think the Newburyport Daily News is aware of the laughable contrast that was presented today in the paper. Mr. Lodge has devoted himself to a whole series on the environmental threat posed to the communities that have some portion in the Great Marsh. He’s basing his articles on the contents of a recent report on all the threats to the eco-system. As President of Parker River Clean Water Association, a group that is involved in preserving and protecting the watershed; I am extremely gratified at the fine job that he is doing.
But in today’s (12/26) paper, is also the following article, Ending the Housing Crunch. Read it, but basically the bottom line is, housing is extremely expensive in Massachusetts so the solution is to cram more housing in even if it violates local zoning laws. In order to do it, the state will put extreme pressure on home rule communities to increase density so more buildings can be constructed. It pooh-pooh’s the negative consequence of such a move. It calls “Myth’s” that the explosion of increased city services will have a negative effect on the community with high taxes. It demonizes restrictive zoning as the culprit.
Well, that “myth” is exactly why it is increasingly difficult to obtain affordable housing. It is not restrictive zoning that is the cause. It is the very law that is supposed to increase affordable housing that is causing everything to be so expensive. Already the 40B law paves the way for big-time developers of which there is only a handful to disregard a local communities zoning (and in many ways, disregard building codes also!) and to put pressure on their water/sewer systems and their infrastructure and public services. These communities are already suffering trying to achieve extremely high standards mandated by the State without providing the funding to achieve compliance.
And then, the State House seals the coffin by the Prevailing Wage Law. To force them to avoid the cost-saving way of private subcontractors, towns and cities must pay the same high union wages with all the same benefit packages and bonding requirements of Boston unions. This is why highway projects and other public construction is often double the cost that it would be in New Hampshire.
This is the irony of the two articles. The Great Marsh is threatened by impervious surfaces and over-building and poor infrastructure planning that the Governor wants to promote! Somehow cramming people into tighter places will somehow improve our Commonwealth and make it more desirable. Nonsense!
In politics, you need to follow the money if you want to find the real motive. The Governor needs lots of funding for re-election and he is counting on the goodwill of a virtual community that surrounds large developers to spread their lobbying influence. If he succeeds, the losers will, as has already been seen for decades with the 40B law; are local communities and a legion of middle-class facing un-affordable housing.
It is also why large numbers of people are leaving the state, and I might add, continuing to leave the state. That means less and less of us having to bear a larger load of the taxes of the Commonwealth. Couple that with the collapse of Obamacare and we stick out like a red-herring with the lone tax mandate compared to surrounding states that don’t have it. The anti-business atmosphere and high taxes are just some more nails to seal the coffin even tighter.
Regrettably, the working poor, and the middle class are going to be struggling. But the solution is NOT building huge massive housing projects the likes that we are seeing in Amesbury and in Salisbury. The residents that will fill these structures will not collectively compensate the community and taxes will begin to rise.
But let’s not leave 2017 in a down note. Newburyport is actually a fine example of a city that handles affordable housing correctly. A Healthy community is a mixture of different economic levels mingling together. A wealthy person living next to a lower middle class and yes, even the working poor – all contributing together for the overall well-being of citizens. It is the great success found in Newburyport that is causing us to be un-affordable. Everyone wants to live in such a nice well-balanced town and so the cost is stratospheric. But the solution is not to build a skyscraper crammed with renters out in the Great Marsh, or build endless tracts of housing covering the Common Pasture with parking lots and chemical lawns!
The key is to shy away from the typical State House solution and to find some creative alternatives to the high cost of living.