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Can Somerville, Massachusetts Keep Transit Oriented Redevelopment Affordable?

With six new Green Line stations coming to Somerville, Massachusetts in the next few years, planners and political leaders are trying to find the right balance between transit oriented redevelopment and its more expensive consequences.
May 13, 2014, 12pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Amy Crawford reports on a dilemma at the intersection land use and transit, in this case represented by Somerville, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. The suburb, which already saw rapid increases in real estate prices when the "T" came to Somerville in 1984, will soon gain six more stations along the Green Line.

The problem: how much will the cost of living go up when transit comes to the neighborhood? According to Crawford, a February report from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council "warned that rent for apartments near the new Green Line stations could rise by as much as 67 percent, and that condo conversions could accelerate starting even before the new T stops open." In fact, reports Crawford, "Developers are already using the Green Line extension in their sales pitches, and renters who live near planned stations report that their landlords have begun to raise the rent — in some cases by 100 percent or more."

To anticipate the coming pressure on transit-adjacent markets, Mayor Joseph Curtatone has adopted redevelopment plans that would increase density: "The goal is at least 6,000 new units by 2030, including 1,200 designated as permanently affordable." The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, however, claims that "Somerville may actually need as many as 9,000 more units (a third of them for low-income households)."

Crawford's coverage also mentions the relevance of the Somerville case study to situations in places like Charlotte, Denver, Atlanta, and Washington D.C.

Astute observers will recall that Paul McMorrow's earlier coverage on Somerville's planning approach to the Green Line expansion highlighted a different concern—how not to repeat the mistake of letting neighborhoods get left out of the renewal and redevelopment potential of new transit capacity.

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Published on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 in Atlantic Cities
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