Your vote for MBTA zoning will help grow affordable housing

April 24, 2024

At Town Meeting, Concord voters can show they care about their community and the housing needs of the region by approving Article 34, a zoning by-law change complying with the MBTA Zoning Act. This new law requires towns to permit multi-family dwellings at a density of 15 units per acre, especially near train stations. Eighty-four acres, less than one-half of one percent of Concord, is being designated to meet this requirement.

AG Campbell’s suit against the town of Milton shows what Concord could lose if Article 34 fails. State permission to be a “fossil fuel free” community depends on meeting affordable housing goals. Concord has many uses for the MCI land, but the state will not cooperate in planning for this asset if we reject MBTA zoning.  

Most important, Concord must do its part to provide more affordable housing. The price of land is so high that only giant homes are built. At a median selling price of $1.2 million (below last year’s median in Concord), annual mortgage payments would be $62,400. Few young people — even two-professional households — have the $240,000 down payment. To house those who work for us, and with us, we must permit some multi-family dwellings

The Planning Board worked hard to designate “MBTA areas” that incorporate existing (Keyes Road condos) and planned (Junction Village, Riverside Commons) multi-family dwellings. Most of the areas are near train stations but do not threaten the “look and feel” of our town. 

“MBTA zoning” will not lead to high-rise apartment buildings. Height limits in the MBTA zones are not increased. Projects can be built at 15 units per acre that go no higher than the current limit. These buildings can fit as neatly into Concord as Everett Gardens and Concord Greene. Nor will the MBTA zones immediately fill with new apartment buildings. Designation as an MBTA zone only means multi-family dwellings may be built. Any transition will be gradual.

Only by approving Article 34 can Concord be a diverse community. The economics of single-family homes mean that new residents are priced out of town. Fifty years ago, young engineers in the tech industry could buy a starter home in Concord and raise a family. Those with similar jobs today cannot. To achieve the diversity which Concord cherishes — homes for nurses, school employees, retail workers and downsizing elders — multi-family housing is our best option. Please vote yes on Article 34.

Frank (Rich) Feeley

President, Concord Housing Foundation