Submitted by Richard Madison
Massachusetts has issued Bedford an ultimatum: allow more multi-family housing, or else. Evidently, we aren’t building fast enough to house the State’s declining population (look it up). The Select Board wants to disseminate information so we can make informed decisions at the 2024 Town Meeting. Kudos. Here are some points I hope they address.
If the Town doesn’t comply, we lose access to free money from the Housing Choice Initiative, the Local Capital Projects Fund, and the MassWorks infrastructure program. That sounds bad, though I don’t know whether we get or plan to get anything from them anyway, so maybe losing access is no big deal.
If the Town does comply, we need 750 multi-family units on 50 acres. Units must be family friendly. In my neighborhood over the last several years, new families average two school children. Let’s do some math. We fund our schools at $18k/student (include bond initiatives when you check that calculation), so 750 new units at two school children each need $27,000,000 more dollars for the schools. Bedford had 5444 housing units in the MBTA study, so $5,000 more tax per house per year. Another 750 families would pay property taxes (rolled into rent or condo fees), but at 1/15 of an acre per family, perhaps not much tax. Even if many new apartment dwellers are young or seniors, so half of them don’t have school children, that is still $2,500 per house per year.
What do we get in exchange? Https://www.mass.gov/info-details/multi-family-zoning-requirement-for-mbta-communities says multi-family zoning puts housing closer to local shops, schools, restaurants, parks, and services. Does a housing development on Middlesex Turnpike do that? They also say it helps confront the climate crisis. Remind me how clear-cutting another 50 acres of trees (our new favorite pastime) helps with the climate crisis?
Seriously, what does the MBTA give us? Bus 351 on Middlesex Turnpike that runs the same route as LTRA Bus 14? A 45-minute walk (if you are in shape) to Bus 62 to Alewife? (It serves the VA: maybe zone their 177 acres as multi-family; they already have units with 338 non-hospital beds.)
Here is an alternative. Tell the MBTA their buses can’t stop in Bedford anymore. Then we aren’t an MBTA community, we don’t lose access to grants, we don’t need to clear more land or pay more taxes, and we can provide affordable housing on our own terms.