The Commonwealth has attempted to persuade (and/or force) towns and cities to build more affordable housing by passing legislation such as “Chapter 40B”, “Chapter 40R” and “Chapter 40S”.

Almost every town and city has resisted.

And/or, found clever ways around the regulations.

For example, Boxford, Massachusetts.

Boxford is a small town on the North Shore (it fancies itself a “village”, in fact).

Boxford has 7,900 residents. The town is 97.37% White, 0.34% African American, 0.11% Native American, 1.21% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.29% from other races, and 0.64% from two or more races. 0.85% of the population is Hispanic or Latino of any race (hi Rámon!).

The median income for a household in the town was $113,212, and the median income for a family was $119,491.

To give you an idea of what it’s like in Boxford, consider the fact that it has a law on its books stating that any new home built must be on a minimum two-acre lot.

(Which is probably a good idea, actually, since the average house in Boxford is probably around 24,000 square feet in size.)

I grew up in Topsfield, the town next door. Topsfield is a slum compared to Boxford (I think we only had a one-acre minimum law).

So, the town of Boxford held a vote on Tuesday to increase its number of “affordable” housing units.

The town proposed increasing the number of affordable housing units by 25%.

Wait, don’t get too excited. There are currently only a total of 19 homes considered “affordable”. In the entire town.

This is 0.7% of the housing stock.

The proposed legislation failed to pass at Tuesday’s town meeting (not surprisingly).

Low-cost housing messages are mixed – By John Laidler, The Boston Globe

By a vote of 238-121, Town Meeting rejected a … proposal that the town spend $693,000 from its Community Preservation Fund to build West Common, a project that would have provided four affordable housing units and a new baseball field on town-owned land in west Boxford.

Why did residents vote against the proposal?

John P. McCormack, who was a candidate for selectman in Tuesday’s town election, questioned whether the bylaw is needed, pointing to data he collected that he said point to a healthy number of rental vacancies in the state, and affordable prices.

Or, in other words, “If people want to live in cheap housing, let them move to New Bedford!” (But not Topsfield, Newbury, West Newbury, Rockport, Manchester by the Sea, Marblehead, Hamilton, Wenham, or any of the other 320 cities and towns in Massachusetts where the cost of housing exceeds median household income.)

Now, before you start thinking that Boxford is made up of greedy, snobby, rich people, I should point out that the town did in fact pass a law that may bring more affordable rental units onto the market in the near future.

… [B]y a vote of 208-64 and now awaiting approval by the attorney general, Boxford would join a small number of other Massachusetts communities targeting what are commonly known as “in-law” apartments in efforts to diversify their housing.

Traditional accessory apartments are separate units created within a home for immediate relatives. The Boxford bylaw would allow those units to be rented to non-relatives at state-recognized affordable rates.

The number of new affordable apartments estimated to come on the market because of this legislation?

Ten.

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Updated:  1st Q 2018

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