WellesleyWeston Magazine

WINTER 2017/2018

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

Issue link: https://wellesleywestonmagazine.epubxp.com/i/897427

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Page 53 of 195

2007 that made Wellesley abandon its first Housing Production Plan. Since then, escalating home values have caused hundreds of empty- nesters to sell directly to developers, avoiding real estate commissions and expensive repair issues. But recently, after a long run of fast and easy flipping (614 teardowns since 2007), developers have seen higher-priced construction sales slow and bylaws become less favorable, most nota- bly the Historic Preservation Demolition Review bylaw that prevents immediate teardowns of houses built before 1949. It was a matter of time before a few single-family "craftsman" home builders opted to reinvent themselves, targeting the town's weak spot by exploiting the state's affordable housing. We, the Neighbors... Adversity brings out strength in people and, in this case, the best kind. Not long after the shock of the building proposals had sunk in, I recall going to one of our early neighborhood meetings expecting a heavy dose of anger and legal strategy. Instead, I witnessed passionate exchanges of ideas about the larger issues surrounding affordable housing in our town and how we could make it work better for everyone involved — future residents, current residents, the town, state, and friendly developers. It turns out that we were all strong supporters of affordable housing, unless the only beneficiary happens to be a profit-seeking developer with an out-of-scale proposal. We continued learning about 40B, town government, and of course our own looming predicament in the weeks and months that followed. But to the credit of the neighbors, discussions about our collective vision for the town's affordable future became more frequent and sophisti- cated. On a tactical level, some naturally took to researching Housing Production Plans and fighting for our town's independence. Others began seeking win/win opportunities with other town groups and set out to connect the dots. We wanted to be constructive on a grass roots level and worked to define our mission: n Make the town more affordable to a diversely young population. n Keep empty nesters from leaving out of necessity. n Enable more town employees to live in the community they serve. n Identify land for affordable development and seek consensus. n Align our mission with groups dedicated to school capacity or tax-base issues. n Enlist friendly builders to construct housing that respectfully integrates new residents with the community. In September, we officially launched Our Affordable Wellesley — a forum dedicated to helping the community construct a brighter "afford- able future." The website and outreach efforts are dedicated to educat- ing residents on affordable housing topics and our Facebook community encourages the open sharing of facts, ideas, and opinions. The "Our" in our name refers to the entire Wellesley community, but also includes developers who have a sincere interest in helping us build affordable housing that respects people and nurtures healthy integration. We have had a lot of help along the way and are particularly grateful for for the guidance of our town officials. Multiple boards are now working together to produce a Housing Production Plan that will hope- fully provide safe harbor from future 40Bs sometime in 2018. We have also benefitted greatly from the knowledge and experiences of orga- nized groups in other towns that have faced un-thoughtful 40Bs. If our work, in turn, can help residents of other towns take control of their affordable futures, we'd be honored. There's no reason it couldn't be Our Affordable (Anywhere)! Two final words of advice to members of any neighborhood that is without safe harbor from 40B: 1) reach out to your town officials to better understand anticipated activity in your area and the town's ef- forts to reach Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) requirements, and 2) get a sense of the long-term plans for the properties around you and how they may eventually be sold. A well-planned, internal strategy that guides them into friendly hands could protect the sanctity of your neighborhood today and in the years to come. PETE BUHLER is the spokes- person and a founding member of Our Affordable Wellesley. turn op-ed issues speak up opinion sound off town green my turn op-ed issues speak up opinion sound off town green my turn op-ed issues speak up [ forum ] 52 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | w i n t e r 2 0 1 7 / 2 0 1 8

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