Ballot Question 2 concerned the repeal of the Chapter 40B law. Statewide, the Question was defeated 58 percent to 42 percent. In Harvard, however, citizens voted almost exactly in reverse. The final tally was in the affirmative, 57 percent to 43 percent. There are some lessons from this high-turnout result that we need to understand.
This vote, along with the Town Meeting vote to stop the Harvard Housing Partnership’s proposed 40B development for the Stow Road gravel pit, are clear evidence that citizens do not support the use of 40B to increase our affordable housing stock. The experience with the “nonprofit” developer, MHOC, brought into town by the Housing Partnership, confirmed for many people the problems with this avenue for the development of town-sponsored, affordable units.
Many citizens want to make sure that we have “enough” affordable housing to meet our needs. Some people believe that 40B is the only approach to obtain affordable housing. Yet, no other state has a comparable law and Massachusetts stands near the bottom of the states in terms of the availability of affordable housing. Maryland, California and Rhode Island build much more affordable housing than Massachusetts. According to Jonathan Witten, a Boston College Law professor and attorney engaged in urban planning, these states use “inclusionary zoning, impact fees and development agreements to require developers to participate in the creation of affordable housing, not just profit from it.” In Massachusetts, the city of Newton and the towns of Dennis and Barnstable use inclusionary zoning as part of their affordable housing plans.
Here in Harvard, non-40B approaches include conversion of older structures, such as the Harvard Inn and Great Elms, to affordable units. The Bowers Brook Housing for Seniors project on Ayer Road will add 42 units of affordable housing, without resorting to 40B.
The voters of Harvard are now clearly on the record. 40B is not the approach to use in developing more affordable housing units for our town.
ANTHONY J. MAROLDA