Submitted by Karen Willson
We have nightmarish traffic on Route 3 for hours every weekday despite adding third travel lanes in each direction in 2005. Why is the traffic so bad and who would choose to endure it every day? Of course, we all know the answer; many families are priced-out of homes in places like Bedford, but can afford to buy or rent in NH due to the lower cost of land and lower taxes. Tens of thousands of people live in NH and commute to MA for work every day.
The greater Boston area has seen tremendous job growth and with it increased demand for housing. Unfortunately, the housing supply has not kept pace with population growth. Due to this increasing demand, home prices in places like Bedford have skyrocketed, making them even less affordable. People with mid-range incomes are forced to seek housing farther and farther from Boston. We’re in the midst of a spiraling housing crisis that is fueling unsustainable suburban sprawl.
All of this is terrible for the environment; the largest single source of Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions- 43%- comes from transportation. Think of all those cars backed up on Route 3. Suburban sprawl is destroying forests and woodlands which, left undisturbed, would absorb carbon emissions and provide habitat for a healthy ecosystem.
We must reduce GHG emissions by cutting lengthy commutes. We must preserve our forests and woodlands by reversing the trend of building single family homes on undeveloped land. Bedford needs more homes for middle-income workers so that they can live closer to where they work—right here in our schools and at our fire station. Allowing two-family homes on already developed lots is an important part of the solution. Our town will not look or feel drastically different. Concord (2016) and Lexington (2021) updated their zoning bylaws to allow more two-family dwellings.
The ugly truth is that our current zoning laws, which require large lots for single-family homes, were created decades ago to exclude middle-income families from settling here. We need to correct this now for the sake of the planet and our childrens’ future climate.
Please join us March 27th at the Annual Town Meeting to approve Article 22 and allow more two-family homes in Bedford.
Mothers out Front is an organization of mothers and others working toward a livable climate for all children.
Karen Willson is a member of Bedford Mothers Out Front Chapter Leadership Team.
Thank you for this great article, Karen! The connection between housing affordability and climate change isn’t talked often discussed but so real.