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The case for yes for Article 12

The author, Jennifer Susse, is a Town Meeting member and a member of the town’s Finance Committee. Below, with very light editing, is what she sent to Town Meeting members over the weekend, in advance of the expected vote at Special Town Meeting on Article 12.

MBTA Communities logoThank you to the MBTA Communities Working Group, the Arlington Redevelopment Board (ARB) and the Town of Arlington’s Planning and Community Development Department for their hard work.

Likely some of you have seen the Boston Globe’s new Spotlight Series about our Regional Housing Crisis (Arlington is mentioned briefly).

 If you haven’t seen it yet, this Vox video gives a great explanation of what the MBTA Communities Law is trying to do, which is to re-legalize modest housing choices like triplexes and small apartment buildings. Although the MBTA Communities Law is not about affordable housing per se (there are other approaches for that), the research is clear that increasing housing supply moderates housing prices. 

I urge [my fellow Town Meeting members] to reject any amendment that seeks to limit what is already a modest consensus proposal to re-zone a little more than 3 percent of Arlington’s buildable land. I also urge you to support James Fleming and Alex Bagnall’s amendment to restore an important aspect of the MBTA Working Group’s plan to allow four stories by right in the neighborhood districts. Allowing four stories makes it much more likely that we will see buildings with elevators and that Arlington’s inclusionary bylaw will be triggered. 

Finally, I want to highlight the many letters of support that a meaningful MBTA Communities proposal has received.  

In no particular order, they are: 

Senator Cindy Friedman, who commends the Working Group and the ARB’s efforts and stresses the negative effect that housing shortages have on both our region and town. 

Representatives Garballey and Rogers, who advocate for a robust implementation of the MBTA Communities Act in order to address our town and region’s affordability challenges. 

Arlington's Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO), which, as part of GBIO's Housing Justice campaign, supports a proposal that goes beyond the minimum in order to welcome households that are currently not able to afford or stay in Arlington, and to redress a history of exclusionary zoning. 

Arlington Mothers Out Front, connecting the housing crisis to the climate crisis. They point out that allowing more multi-family housing in Arlington can help reduce pressure to build single-family homes elsewhere, safeguarding undisturbed ecosystems and reducing dependence on automotive commutes. 

Arlington’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, noting that allowing multifamily homes by right is an expressed goal of both the Community Equity Audit and the Fair Housing Action Plan. Division officials point out that zoning changes, along with other measures, can help correct some of the wrongs brought about by exclusionary zoning practices implemented in Arlington in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Arlington’s Clean Energy Future Committee, urging the passage of the MBTA zoning amendment this fall in order to participate in the state’s Fossil Fuel Free Demonstration Pilot Program. They note that denser transit-oriented housing is more energy-efficient and is an explicit goal of the town’s Net Zero Action Plan

Finally, I want to share a note by Annie LaCourt on the financial implications of new growth in town and the chance that new housing will slow the growth of our structural deficit.

Oct. 3, 2023: Redevelopment Board refines MBTA Working Group's rezoning proposal


This viewpoint was published Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023.

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