Letter to the Editor: MBTA Housing Plan Would Benefit Town

Submitted by Tim Bennett

After reading Mr. Madison’s Sept. 13th Letter to the Editor, his “analysis” left me in a state of disbelief. His purported cost-benefit analysis seems deliberately tailored to minimize the benefits while maximizing the costs. He minimizes the impact of programs like MassWorks, which granted the town $3,000,000 in 2022, and the Capital Projects funds, which amounted to $3,927,797 according to the town’s most recent budget. By refusing to do cursory research on these, he is able to dismiss it out of hand.

Mr. Madison greatly exaggerates the cost to taxpayers of new units. The 2020 census puts 24 percent of residents at <18 and the population of those <5 at about 4 percent.

This means that ~20 percent of all residents are in our schools. The average household size is 2.5, so with 750 additional units we will have 1875 new residents, and 375 more students. Accepting his statistic of $18,000/student, this means an extra $6,750,000 towards schools, a quarter of his $27,000,000 estimate.

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As for his points about property taxes on this new development, Mr. Madison dismisses the property taxes that could be reaped by claiming the property values will be low. Using the developer’s presentation, 8 of 12 duplexes in the development will be sold, with ¾ of these being sold at market rate. This means we will have about six duplexes sold at market rate, which a review of recent sales at Kendall Court reveals go for roughly $800-900,000. 

Using the Albion Road townhouse development as a model, the approximately eight townhouses for sale at market rate will each fetch another $800-900,000. All told, these valuations are hardly low as he suggests and are appraised higher than many single-family homes, such as 29 Fox Run Rd. 

Nonetheless, even if we ignore the taxes this development will reap and only look at the costs to the town against the money would be ineligible for, the estimated $6,927,797+ we will lose access to is greater than a more accurate estimate for increased schooling costs. 

The increased economic diversity and effective use of land represented by affordable housing and apartments as well as access to the MBTA, one of the most robust systems in the country, are simply icing on top of an already great deal for the community.

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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Richard Madison
September 23, 2023 11:00 am

Continuing my previous comment …

I still do not accept the assumption that 0.5 school-children-per-household for existing residents will extend to families looking to move into a high-end school district. It violates both logic and observation. I hope someone will still come forward with some numbers that validate or contradict the assumption, as it makes the difference between a big loss and a moderate gain.

I hope the debate continues, and I hope to see quantifiable details on other advantages, such as economic diversity, effective land use, and the presence of the MBTA.

Richard Madison
September 23, 2023 10:59 am

Thank you Tim for exactly the right reaction. Disbelief: I had a gut reaction, did a cursory internet search (I think it rose to the level of cursory) to satisfy confirmation bias, and came to a conclusion exactly opposite of the popular view. Distress: how many others, each with an equal vote at Town Meeting, have done the same? And action: provide facts and arguments that people need to make informed decisions BEFORE Town Meeting. Especially, provide non-obvious facts.

For instance, it never occurred to me to solve the housing shortage by building multi-family housing that is even less affordable than our single-family stock. If that is what we are doing, then pending numbers about the price for the below-market-rate units at Kendall Court and Albion Road, I see how the new units could absorb $3K or more per new student. I still hope someone will post evidence that the State covers another $3K per student.

Tim’s answer on MassWorks is solid: nearly $7M income last year from sources we would forfeit if we blow off the MBTA. And presumably that is $7M income immediately, whereas the school costs defer until housing actually gets built.

Nancy Wolk
September 21, 2023 1:06 pm

Thank you for the actual numbers, Tim.

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