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In clashes over new housing, can we turn down volume on foes’ voices?

ZOM Living has proposed a multiunit apartment and senior-living complex behind South Shore Plaza in Braintree. It would occupy some of the parking lot behind the plaza.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Andrew Brinker’s article “Housing at South Shore Plaza a tough sell” (Page A1, Feb. 8) did a good job of conveying a recurring tension between the need for housing in Massachusetts and the opposition that often follows wherever it is proposed.

My issue is with how the opposition is framed. The article states that “Braintree residents” do not see the proposal of a mixed-used development on a portion of the South Shore Plaza’s parking lots as a positive and that “residents” expressed concerns about crime and other issues.

Which residents? Opponents of housing are often labeled this way but rarely is this accompanied by survey data or a clear indication that this is a representative voice of a community’s residents rather than self-selected outliers. People who attend neighborhood meetings, zoning hearings, and similar public forums do not necessarily represent the broader community.


Candidates speaking to the need for more housing (and affordable housing) have been elected at the local and state levels. Massachusetts residents who voted for them deserve to be represented as well in these housing debates, even if they don’t attend public forums that often devolve into shouting matches.

Opponents’ claims should be pressure-tested too. Whether new housing development leads to crime, the likely impact of new housing on home prices, and the expected impact in regard to school capacity are factors that can be studied and reported on with data.

It’s appropriate and good to cover these controversies and include the voices of proponents and opponents, as Brinker did, but the framing should reflect something closer to reality rather than the worldview of the loudest NIMBY groups.

Joe Gravellese

East Boston