PRICED OUT: Pressure mounts on suburbs to find affordable housing solutions

BOSTON — Boston residents like special education teacher Megan Struckel tell Boston 25 News, the housing crisis is making it nearly impossible to live and work in Metro Boston.

“More and more people want to live in the city and there’s just not enough space for everyone,” Struckel told Boston 25 News reporter Crystal Haynes.

According to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, or MAPC, since 2010 the 15 metro communities of Greater Boston added 100,000 residents and about 150,000 and new jobs.  But the region only issued building permits for around 32,000 housing units.

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Many of those are not what most would consider affordable.

“Boston can’t build all the affordable housing for Massachusetts”

“We’re talking about the new stock market which is really our housing stock being used by these ultra-rich, ultra-wealthy people who have no intention of renting them out of living in them,” said Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards.

“Boston can’t build all the affordable housing for Massachusetts,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told Haynes.

According to MAPC, 2/3 of all the rental apartments in Massachusetts in the last decade were built by just ten cities and towns.

That wasn't the intent of the state's Chapter 40B statute that requires 10 percent of all housing in each town be affordable.

MAPC found 80-85 percent of all communities in the state don't meet that requirement.

“If a community really wants to keep housing out. They don’t want new people to come in, then they establish zoning ordinances to prevent that from happening. But the entire state is harmed by that,” said Marc Draisen of MAPC.

Suburbs Battle over Mega Complexes

If a town is below the 10 percent affordable housing mandated by 40B, developers can bypass zoning laws, with state approval.  Some developers have used the zoning loophole to propose mega-complexes that are cleared by the state, as long as ¼ of the units are designated as affordable housing.

Towns like Medfield, Brookline, and Wayland have all clashed with developers to stop the big builds and take control of where and how affordable housing will be built on their own terms.

While both sides are fighting, affordable housing is slow to materialize.

Two years ago, the Newton Zoning Board took a developer to land court to stop the construction of a 334-unit chapter 40B affordable housing project in the Wells Avenue office park and won.

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller says Newton's still working to build affordable housing that doesn't destroy their community.

“Things are happening in Newton,” said Mayor Fuller.

Newton joined 14 other metropolitan mayors in pledging to build 185 new units of housing by 2030 with a percentage set aside for moderate or low-income families.

Organizers of the "Yes In My Backyard" movement or YIMBY, say it's a step in the right direction.

“We need to end exclusionary zoning in the suburbs which has made it not just difficult but nearly impossible to build enough affordable or really any affordable housing in many of the exclusive, exclusionary suburbs in Greater Boston, said Jesse Kanson-Bevanav of YIMBY Cambridge.”

In the next series installment of the ongoing series 'Priced Out', Boston 25 News will examine how area residents are taking affordable housing issues into their own hands, rather than relying on state and city leaders.