We're delighted Mike Connolly put so much effort into his answers to our four housing questions, and overall we like what we see here. (Just look at #4.)
His complete post is below + some highlights for the comments, but go to his original Facebook post for the full flavor.
A Better Cambridge Action Fund asked me to answer four quick questions about housing — here's my answers — three of which are fairly nuanced, and one of which is pretty simple. What do people think?
(1) Do you agree that restricting housing supply creates artificial scarcity and drives up prices for everyone?
I would agree that restricting housing supply creates scarcity — and that scarcity tends to drive up prices. I also recognize there are significant equity and sustainability concerns that must be considered whenever policy is being made, particularly in the context of profound wealth and income inequality, the global climate emergency, and the continuing legacies of white supremacy, racial subjugation, discrimination, and colonialism.
As someone who was raised in public housing and has spent my adult life living in rental housing, my starting point on this issue is to assert that Housing is a Human Right. I am working to advance the policy concept of Guaranteed Housing For All via a comprehensive program of smart housing production, strong tenant protections, support for owner-occupants and first-time buyers, various new taxes, and massive public investment in affordable multifamily housing. We need housing that is well-served by transit, in neighborhoods that are walkable and bike-friendly, close to good jobs, retail, and services, rich with educational and recreational opportunities, and welcoming to all.
In my first term as State Representative, I am proud to have championed efforts in the legislature to boost housing production and investment in affordable housing across the Commonwealth, particularly in my work as a member of the legislature's Joint Committee on Housing; I'm also proud to have supported numerous affordable housing developments right here in our community and to have been actively involved in the effort to win a commitment from MIT for some 950 additional beds of graduate student housing. In addition, I am on the frontlines of legislative efforts to establish basic tenant protections and a local option for a real estate transfer fee to help fund affordable housing preservation and production.
(2) Do you agree that increasing the supply of market-rate housing reduces pressure on housing costs overall?
In theory and in general, I agree. But in the context of profound wealth and income inequality and an economic system that is completely untethered from any sense of morality, I also recognize that increasing the supply of market-rate housing tends to create upward pressure on housing costs in formerly distressed central/urban neighborhoods, and this creates serious issues of equity for low-, moderate-, and middle-income residents who want to remain in their neighborhoods. I believe that the market can play a role in addressing the housing crisis, but just as progressives have generally recognized that government programs and public investment must play a central role in ensuring that health care and education are made available to all, the government must also play a central role in guaranteeing housing for all.
(3) Should the state require cities and towns to up zone in order to facilitate denser development?
I think this would be a worthwhile proposal for municipalities that are connected to some kind of transit and haven't yet taken sufficient steps to meet their share of regional housing needs. Of course, there are 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth, and as a practical matter I am not sure it would make sense to require every single one of those towns to up zone.
As it stands, places like Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston have repeatedly up-zoned and reliably issued permits to allow dense, multifamily housing production. At the same time, however, the vast majority of Eastern Mass. communities see virtually no new multifamily housing production in any given year, despite the fact that most of these communities are within the MBTA service area.
We need to make big investments in maintaining, improving, and expanding our transit, bus, and rail services, and while we are at it, we should also expect that communities that are well-served by transit are taking steps to facilitate denser development.
(4) Should cities in Massachusetts reduce or eliminate parking requirements in areas well-served by transit, bike share, or other alternative transportation options?