The Campaign to Protect our Affordable Housing Law, has, as several of their members, people who live in 40b affordable housing units across the state, showing which housing developments they live in.
I thought I'd take a look at the housing developments.
One of the members lives at Elmwood Village in North Reading. There were 35 townhouse units built there, with 7 of them being "affordable." Those 2-bedroom units all go for $184,000 and are available to first-time home buyers who earn 80% of the median income in North Reading, or less, according to the town's website.
I checked out Realtor.com's listings in North Reading for homes that cost less than $184,000 and found 13 listings (some of them quite cute!), out of 73 total listings in North Reading -- and not a single one of them, as far as I'm aware, would be considered "affordable housing" in North Reading. So, to be accurate, approximately 18% of all the listed homes for sale in North Reading cost less than the seven "affordable" units at Elmwood Village. Furthermore, while North Reading is technically under the 10% state threshold for affordable housing, 18% of their properties currently for sale cost less than the "affordable" units. Wouldn't that mean that almost 20% of North Reading's property on the market is actually affordable, at least compared to whatever metric the state uses for its 40b policy?
Lest anyone think this phenomenon is unique to North Reading, let's check out some of the other "affordable" housing units out of people on the 'coalition for affordable housing.' Take a look at The Ridge Luxury Apartments in Waltham (note how the coalition to protect affordable housing left off the fact that these are luxury apartments). It has 264 units, with a state-required minimum of 25% 'affordable' units... which cost $1,500 a month for rent for a 1 bedroom. It's "affordable" only compared to the other units at the complex. Finding prices for apartments for rent is a bit tougher than homes, but there's literally 73 in the area of Waltham for $1,500 or less, and I found at least 11 at that price or less for rent in Waltham at this site. Few, if any, of those would be considered "affordable" under 40b, as it applies to the 10% threshold.
That's just a small slice of the picture. If people want to look into the other towns and communities, they'll probably see a similar picture. The only town which didn't have a number of homes below the sale price was Marblehead's The Reserve at Oliver's Pond development, which is including 5 affordable units amongst its 15 homes other condos on the market for over $600,000. The affordable units were going for $156,000 and there were only three homes more affordable than that in the town. A town like Marblehead really needs a whole lot more affordable housing -- the town's 500 units away from the state's goal of 10% -- but this 40b approach shows just how frustrating the law is for cities and towns under the threshold. Yes, it created 5 new units toward the 10% goal, but it also created 15 new units against it. For all intents and purposes, this doesn't really get the town any closer to the promised land.
People should be opposed to NIMBY zoning laws that try to prevent ordinary citizens from being able to afford living in the communities of their choice -- and there's a place for a policy like 40b, but it needs to be severely tweaked before election day, or voters should vote to repeal. In fact, as the Wicked Local article I just linked to says, the state has another, friendlier and smarter affordable housing law -- Chapter 40R, which establishes "Smart Growth" zones. However, that's not where developers make their bread and butter -- and, at the end of the day, that's what this is really about.