Brookline for Everyone Endorsement Questionnaire
1) In a few sentences, how do you approach questions related to housing? Do you generally support building more dense housing, less dense housing, or maintaining the level of density we currently have in Brookline?
Like everything else, I approach questions related to housing with an equity lens. Brookline urgently needs more housing, including both affordable and market-rate housing. I support increasing density, especially in areas with easy access to public transportation.
2) In the Fall 2021 Town Meeting, Brookline for Everyone board members sponsored a warrant article on parking minimums (WA23). The compromise version the petitioners moved did two things: First, it decreased minimum parking requirements near transit (almost all of North Brookline) by approximately 50% — to 0.5 minimum required parking spaces per studio and 1 minimum required parking space for 1 or more bedroom dwellings. Second, it gave the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals the ability to further reduce or eliminate parking requirements by special permit to facilitate adaptive re-use of existing structures or in exchange for certain counterbalancing amenities such as greater open space or more affordable housing than otherwise required. How did/would you have voted, and why?
I voted YES on the petitioner's main motion (and NO on the Advisory Committee's amendment which would have lessened the impact). At the time, Brookline had unusually high parking minimums for housing near public transit. By reducing the parking requirements, we should start seeing more housing units that are less expensive, and more green space where there previously would have been parking. This was also specifically worded so that it would *not* reduce the number of accessible parking spots, which is important to maintain for people with disabilities. I voted in favor of WA-23 to help improve housing affordability, and to help reduce carbon emissions by having potentially fewer car-dependent households.
3) Chapter 40B is a Massachusetts state law that allows multi-family housing projects to circumvent local zoning rules if 10% of the homes in a Town aren't considered affordable. As Brookline hovers around the around the 10% threshold, what should Brookline do to encourage affordable housing for low and moderate income families and individuals beyond this state requirement?
We should amend zoning by-laws to include better incentives for developers to create more affordable housing, and these amendments should ideally also codify our commitment to racial justice and climate justice. We should look to the new Housing Production Plan that's in progress right now, and implement any recommendations that will benefit the community.
4) Housing policy is closely linked to other policy/political areas, such as transit, racial justice, and environmental policy. How do you think about housing policy as it interacts with these other issue areas?
a) Housing & Transportation
We're lucky to live in a streetcar suburb with excellent access to public transportation in many areas. Many people in Brookline also choose to bike or walk rather than drive, and we should do what we can to make Brookline even more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. One way to do this is to continue lowering parking requirements in areas where they're unnecessarily high. We need to make sure that the housing we're building is still accessible to people with disabilities, but we can do that while also building housing that doesn't encourage car ownership in car-free-friendly areas.
b) Housing & Racial Justice
Brookline has a long history of racial exclusion, which can still be seen on our current zoning maps. Large swaths of our Town are zoned only for single-family homes, and these areas closely align with the areas graded as A "Best" and B "Still Desirable" on maps created by the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) between 1935 and 1940 (AKA redlining maps). I'm in favor of updating our zoning to allow for more diversity of housing types within neighborhoods, and to allow us to increase the number of housing units.
That being said, racial justice takes so much more work than simply tweaking zoning by-laws. Town leadership should be considering racial justice with every decision they make. I don't know enough about housing and zoning to offer any specific solutions, but I'm hoping that those that know more will be able to find creative ways to codify racial justice into our zoning by-laws.
c) Housing & Climate Change
Climate change will drastically change our world in the near future, and we need to do everything in our power to lessen the impact on our community in an equitable way. We should be aiming for dense housing near public transportation to lower carbon emissions from people who currently have to live farther away and rely on a car. I've voted in favor of fossil-fuel-free building for new construction, EV-ready residential parking space requirements, and lowering minimum residential parking space requirements. I've heard from neighbors that there's interest in having the Town help with converting fossil fuel heating systems to electric in an affordable way, and I hope that's something we'll be able to do.
5) Anything else you’d like to add about housing production, affordability, and economic development in town?
There have been a few warrant articles to establish local historic districts in the past year, and as a new Town Meeting member, I was surprised at the apparent prioritization of protecting buildings with questionable historical relevance within the context of the urgent need for more housing. While I do not want developers tearing down older homes for no good reason, I think it's important for us to be reducing barriers for new construction, rather than adding more.