Stoneham is well-poised to begin smart economic growth with housing – the kind many communities seek where current residents and businesses can remain and thrive, while opportunities are available to attract young workers, young families, and other groups with a new mix of spending dollars.
Fortunately, for Stoneham - the first “town” north of Boston – this smart housing conversation is beginning as it looks at the wave of those seeking a better housing value than presented by the rapidly rising options in the Boston area.
Stoneham’s current housing stock is in great demand. For many weeks, it has listed only 3 properties available for sale. Only 8 miles from downtown Boston, Stoneham boasts a superb I-93/I-95 location, a “town” feel with numerous amenities, accessibility by public transportation, and nearly 1/3 of its real estate in beautiful protected green and water spaces. People who live here want to stay here. New people want to move here, but there are precious few housing options for both groups.
January 30, The Town of Stoneham held its first Housing Production Plan Public Forum in conjunction with the MAPC (Metropolitan Area Planning Council) - a first step in identifying current conditions and starting a plan for smart housing growth.
Part of a plan will include reviewing Stoneham’s zoning laws that now do not include “inclusionary rights”, meaning that developers are not required to set aside any portion of projects as affordable units (defined by Massachusetts as meeting needs of those at 80% or below the town’s median income). This practice promotes building expensive developments that exclude opportunities for an aging in-town population and for young workers, young families, and other groups wishing to move to Stoneham.
The State agrees. Concurrently, the Baker Administration has proposed legislation that would allow towns to require only a simple majority vote, rather than super majority (2/3) for zoning changes affecting housing.
Businesses should see smart housing growth as a positive economic development. Having opportunities to “age-in-place” frees up spending dollars normally earmarked for burdensome housing costs, and preserves local spending habits. Attracting new home renters and buyers brings in a new mix of new spending dollars and initiates local spending habits.
A follow-on housing forum will take place in late Spring. Please stay tuned!