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September 08, 2008



Bill, you always write informative posts. I am slightly perplexed by your support of a large number of affordable units.

As you know, all it does is drive up the rents of the remaining market rate units. Also it is always seems to be "connected people" get many of these income cut off affordable units...nudge nudge wink wink.

As for artists, I have nothing against them. However, why should the city provide them with subsidised housing at everyone else's expense. How about affordable housing set asides for public defenders who make $38,000 a year, or social workers get my point. There are plenty of low paid important jobs.....I don't see why artists should get special treatment. They decide to be artists after all.

Funnily enough, when it comes to income cut offs on affordable housing I a little too much to qualify....however they do not take into account student loan repayments that must be made every month. Once my loans are fatored in I am poorer than most of those getting these affordable places. However, the guidlines only care about gross in effect you are punished for getting an education and rewarded for having no debt, likely because you did not go to college and/or grad school.

However, when it comes to real estate I am a firm belive in one thing: let the market decide, and life where you can afford. I saw what political intereference in the real estate market did in NY and it was dreadful. You certainly needs laws to protect tenants from slum landlords, safety violations etc.....iother than that leave it alone!

Bill Shelton

First, thanks JPM. Yes, excluding from housing affordability calculations debt service on student loans does seem to me to be unjust--in cases where graduates choose occupations that make the world better for all or provide some essential public service, like your public defender/social worker. These folks will spend many, many years paying off their student loans. Doing so will absorb much of their disposable income. Simply including student loans payments in the calculation would make things easier for these people, while automatically excluding those with highly lucrative jobs by virtue of their incomes.

And, as I expressed to Ms. Lamboy & Ms. Masters when I interviewed them, I too believe that artists should not receive a break merely because they are artists. But it is hard for me to imagine someone who would want to buy and maintain the extra space in a live-work unit whose activity in the work portion could not be defined as"art."

The city's planners view the density of artists in the area as providing a competitive advantage that will bring out-of-towners to shop, locate offices, dine in restaurants, and leave their money here, creating jobs and tax revenues for residents. As competitive advantages go, it doesn't seem to me to be that strong, but it may work.

On the affordable housing question, we'll have to disagree. Yes, in a perfect market with perfect information, removing a certain portion of housing from the market that those with the means to do so would otherwise be willing to pay a higher price for, will increase the average price of units that remain in the open market. This tendency is moderated somewhat by the fact that affordable units are more often those that a person of means would not choose to buy, but the price increase is real.

However, the housing market is regional, while I live in Somerville. As I have often written, I see more and more people who take no part in the life of the community displacing Somerville residents who have, throughout their lives, made contributions to the community's well being that, in their absence, must become services provided by government and paid for by you and I.

I don't want to live in a bedroom community. I don't want to live with people who are all the same. What I pay for my housing includes debt service, taxes, insurance, and maintenance. I don't believe that the net impact of increased housing prices resulting from removing what is a small proportion of housing from the free market is going to be much higher than that of forcing out families whose absence will result in increased taxes.


I think there should be more offices, make Union Square vibrant during the business day to support business and keep the square vibrant all day and night long. Also given that Roosevelt towers is like two blocks away from Boynton Yards (which is where the tall buildings we're talking about will go) I don't think subsidized housing should be a major goal for the health of the neighborhood. Above a certain % and its dangerous.


Bill I will address your points later in full.

For now I will say this:
The one major flaw with these feel good policies is that they have loopholes in them that you can drive a truck through. The major one is that the income cut offs are determined by reported income: i.e. income that you declare in your tax returns and reported on W2s. What often happens is that people get theses cheap apartments and they are working under the table and are actually doing very well....and now they get a cheap apartment as well. Like a lot of feel good poilcies...when you examine them more closely they fall apart.

Adam Rich


If you feel that a concentration of families making $60,000 a year is dangerous, you may want to consider living in another city. The affordable housing used in the zoning plan is based on the area median income, a calculation that includes wealthy suburbs. This affordable housing, in theory, will protect the very large percentage of people in Somerville who qualify. We are not talking about deep subsidies here. The unfortunate reality is that many people in Somerville will not be wealthy enough to afford the affordable units.


Adam. If you can't afford to live in Somerville then live somewhere else or make more money.

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