fb-pixel Skip to main content

We can’t build our way out of the housing crisis

When market rent for a modest one-bedroom apartment is twice what a minimum-wage worker takes home in a week, it’s clear that we have an affordable housing crisis. Unfortunately, Governor Baker’s “housing choices” bill (“Baker’s housing bill is better than nothing,” Editorial, Dec. 6) does not provide the right choice for solving it. The central idea in Baker’s bill is admirable: We do need to change our state’s zoning laws to remove arbitrarily high thresholds for zoning approval, especially in the suburbs. But we can’t build our way out of this crisis, as the large number of vacant units in Boston’s new luxury towers can attest. We need to make sure that we are building for all income levels and that we are aware of the ripple effects that come with new development. Bills filed by the House and Senate Democrats struck a far better balance: They liberalized zoning rules while also authorizing inclusionary zoning authority for cities and towns and enabling cities and towns to impose fees on developers for associated infrastructure costs. And there’s more that needs to be done beyond this, as state Representative Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge has pointed out, from strengthening tenant protections to simply investing more in housing. Housing is a complex issue, and it merits thoughtful debate from the Legislature, not a hasty attempt to check the box and go home for the holidays.

Jonathan Cohn