Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mass housing growth

Housing availability is the most pressing issue facing Eastern Massachusetts. There simply isn't enough. The housing stock is limited by regulations on new development, building heights, parking minimums and other restrictions which I am sure the governor's office knows better than anyone. Eastern Massachusetts is a technology hub and attracting lots of well educated talented people who will add to the area's economy but there isn't anywhere to live driving up the prices. Rising house prices aren't good for Eastern Massachusetts economic growth which is based on technology and in particular technology start-ups which don't generate high salaries immediately but may later. So early stage workers cannot live here limiting the region's future economic growth. Limiting housing, driving up prices is not helping long time local Massachusetts families. I am from out of the area but I have talked to locals who say how sad it is that none of the children who grew up in these neighborhoods stay because they can't afford the housing. They are in essence pushed out by the incoming technology workers. When I moved to the Boston area I knew it was a big city and didn't expect to move into a large house with a big yard, I expected a condo in a taller building but there are barely any of those available and they are tremendously expensive due to the limited supply. We need to permit and encourage building more housing. The program must be regional and not just the city of Boston which can't supply enough housing alone. Limiting housing in the suburbs restricts access to many of the best schools in the area. The new housing must be walking, bicycling, and transit oriented to avoid adding more traffic to the already congested roads. The new housing should be taller, denser, close to transit, mixed use to reduce driving trips. More transit oriented housing would add to city tax bases, increase riders on the T (and T ridership revenue) and could possibly reduce road traffic if people moving in from distant commuter locations. The increased tax and T ridership revenue could be used to improve the transit system which would encourage people already here to use the T trains even more. I know people are driving and avoiding the T because the Orange, Red and Green subway lines are particularly unreliable and in need of improvement.

fish habitat

The most important thing we fishermen can do to keep America fishing is to protect fish habitat. I took my family ice fishing one winter in New England and the smelt camp told us they were closing the next day because there were no fish. We caught one smelt over an entire tide. I checked on the Internet and found that country roads in New England with small waterways underneath are making it almost impossible for the smelt to spawn. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/species/rainbow_smelt_brochure_08102010.pdf Fishermen need to promote fish habitat protection, increase the number of fish, and then ask wildlife biologists when is the right time to lift fishing restrictions and limits that were put in place to allow fish populations to recover.

Transit investment

Boston's snowy winter and the shutdown of the train system showed the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA or T) obviously needs investment to upgrade trains to handle snowy winters. In order to recoup the investment the T also needs to increase revenue. The train cars can handle additional riders and generate additional revenue in the reverse commute directions. During rush hour train cars are often full in one direction and almost empty in the reverse direction. Eastern Massachusetts also has a crisis lack of housing and office space resulting in high housing and office costs limiting business growth and making it difficult for residents to find housing as it is. The long term solution to the our transportation, housing, and office space problems is to reduce regulations around subway and commuter rail stations to allow and even encourage mixed use dense development including rental apartments, condos, office space, restaurants and shopping. With the right zoning and encouragement private investment can build up the areas around stations to make them both commuter destinations and places where people live. This would create reverse commuters, give the T additional revenue, increase the housing and office supply and encourage T use over driving. With increased long term ridership projections the state can invest in the T to fix the short term problems with projections of long term T revenue growth.