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More housing please, mayor

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis April 30, 2014 01:31 PM

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wants to rezone city neighborhoods to make it easier for new businesses to set up shop.

He even plans to appoint a "zoning czar" to get the job done.

Great. But how about making it easier to build more homes and condos, especially the kind middle class families might be able to afford?

That's what John Ford suggests on his Boston Real Estate Blog. A sharp observer of the city's real estate scene, Ford is broker owner of the Ford Realty, which has Beacon Hill and Back Bay offices.

"Boston has had an excellent track record of late in approving new housing developments in the downtown area, Ford writes. "What's needed, though, is more affordable, smaller-scale housing projects in the neighborhoods where property is much cheaper."

With the average condo price approaching $1 million in downtown Boston and real estate prices soaring from East Boston to Hyde Park, reasonably priced housing arguably may be even more important than new jobs.

People like to live near where they work. If a prospective business owner or his employees can't afford to do that, it's going to be a tough sell.

All that said, it is actually heartening Walsh is taking a look at Boston's outdated and long-ignored zoning rules.

During the Menino years, city zoning became a big joke, with the Boston Redevelopment Authority able to bend the rules whatever way it wanted to jam through the projects it backed. Basically, all the agency had to do was label and few blocks a "planned development area" and all zoning became meaningless.

As a result, each major development became a one-shot deal, with its own sets of rules and with the powers that be at City Hall ultimately calling the shots.

OK, rules aren't always popular, but zoning, if done right, provides some critical predictability for both neighborhoods and businesses.

So go for it, Marty. But don't forget about housing.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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