Housing Crunch Provokes Debate in Boston Suburb

The city of Waltham, Massachusetts has added over 11,000 jobs since 2010, but only a few hundred homes. Developers see a prime opportunity, but city officials are reticent.

1 minute read

July 26, 2018, 11:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Prospect Hill Park, Waltham, MA

Bill Damon / Flickr

Waltham, Tim Logan writes, is just one Greater Boston community where a booming economy has added plentiful jobs, but without the housing that might let more of those workers live nearby. 

"It's a common complaint in the suburbs along Route 128, a belt of communities that have become ground zero for Greater Boston's housing crunch. As people seek to live closer to where they work, job-rich towns from Burlington to Needham are not adding enough housing to keep up, industry experts say."

Despite Governor Charlie Baker's statewide goal of 135,000 new units by 2025 and a program to reward municipalities that ease construction, "Baker has been careful to keep his bill, and his broader housing efforts, purely optional, with incentives for municipalities that want to build, but no consequences for those that don't."

It remains very difficult for developers to overcome local opposition, founded on concerns like traffic and school capacity. "Unlike Watertown, Belmont, and Lexington next door, Waltham does not have a state-certified housing plan outlining its housing goals, and the planning staff is far smaller than in nearby cities such as Newton. Major projects face a thorny permitting process involving the mayor and a 14-member City Council."

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