Business leaders on the South Shore are starting to wage war on the big-lot zoning that’s so common in many of their towns.
The South Shore Chamber of Commerce Thursday issued a housing agenda aimed at building dense housing at or near train stations and ferry docks, retail centers, even underused office parks.
Chamber chief executive Peter Forman tells me the organization needs to expand beyond its typical bread-and-butter work of hosting events and promoting commercial development. Getting more housing, particularly in walkable neighborhoods, is crucial to recruiting younger workers and keeping talented longtime residents around. Towns will suffer, Forman says, if they cling to the old way of doing business: the one-acre homes and the resistance to multifamily projects, particularly those that mean more kids.
For Rockland Trust chief executive Chris Oddleifson, who is helping lead the chamber’s effort, the problem hit home last year when his bank (which sponsors this newsletter) was recruiting an executive from Texas for a key position who ended up walking away from the offer. The reason? The high cost of housing in the area.
The chamber can’t change zoning rules, of course, and it’s not a housing developer. But the organization can champion policies at the State House, and individual projects back home. It’s one of the state’s biggest business groups. Its leaders have a loud voice, a voice they’re not afraid to use.Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @jonchesto.