TEN MILES north of Boston, the parking lots scattered around Winchester’s train station might not look like they can help solve the region’s housing crunch. But if the Legislature passes a long-needed overhaul of the state’s zoning laws, it could help turn those parcels — and many others like them across the Commonwealth — into the new housing that Greater Boston desperately needs.
Tidy downtown Winchester, just 20 minutes by train from North Station, should be a prime target for new development. According to one recent study, Greater Boston may need 19,000 new housing units every year just to keep pace with demand. And Winchester would welcome new residents: Town Manager Richard Howard says downtown restaurants and stores are eager to see new residential development on the city-owned lots, and that a planned upgrade to the commuter rail station next year could bring new vitality to downtown. The style of transit-oriented housing would also fall in line with the state’s environmental goals, which call for concentrating residential and commercial development near rail stations.