So, I had my League of Women Voters debate two days ago (stay tuned for the airing on NewTV later this month) and I was shocked my something one of my opponents said. Councilor Albright mentioned several times that naturally affordable housing was a myth. This led me to think whether she was isolated in thinking this or whether this opinion was wide spread.
Here's a definition to consider: naturally occurring affordable housing (sometimes called NOAH by those who work in the field) is housing that is available on the regular market, open to anyone and not subsidized by a government or nonprofit, but which happens to be within the budget of many families.
Councilor Albright's argument is that the least expansive housing stock in Newton is currently on the market for $600,000 - $700,000, which she says isn't really that affordable. While that is certainly a stretch for most people, the new housing stock that is build on the NOAH's lot is 2x-4x more expensive and certainly out of reach for a lot more.
While developers are busy buying up mid-century modern and ranch houses, demolishing them, and building on a lot which maximizes the FAR, can we at least recognize that our naturally occurring affordable housing is disappearing. Affordable and workforce housing are a critical component of the housing market, and according to a recent report by the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, providing enough affordable housing in high-cost cities requires multiple solutions in addition to building new affordable housing. These include inclusionary zoning, allowing accessory dwelling units by right, and importantly, preserving the supply of existing affordable units.
I know many teachers, firefighters, and police officers who would love to live in the neighborhoods in which they work...but let's be honest - Newton is too busy allowing developers to fill their pockets and produce shoddy luxury apartments or huge mega-mansions to stop them from rapidly reducing our NOAH stock.
If elected, I promise to work on zoning reform that will protect our NOAH from developers. Vote for me November 5!