Weston should build more affordable housing


According to Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 40B, each town now must have 10% of housing units be qualified as affordable. These numbers represent the percentages of housing units considered affordable by the state. GRAPHIC/ Aditya Saligrama and Matthew Sakai

Michael Martinez, Guest Writer

By Michael Martinez

I remember the laughs my father and I shared walking back to the car together after Back to School Night this past fall. The evening had its humorous and odd moments alike. But the strangest event happened in the car. As we climbed in, my father noticed a flier on the windshield, and quietly skimmed it as we settled in for the drive back to Boston.

  As we drove off, he handed it to me. The first thing I noticed was the bold title – “STOP 375 Units Rental Apartment Development in Weston.” As I began to read, I was surprised by the pessimism expressed in all of the comments regarding an affordable housing project in Weston. “This is reckless,” one said. And, “This is not in the best interest of residents,” stated another.

  I guess affordable housing is more natural to me than it is to some of the Weston residents. Perhaps it’s because I live in the city. Or perhaps it’s because I have family and friends who live in affordable housing. Although it didn’t surprise me that there were Weston residents who were concerned about building more affordable housing units in their beloved community, it did surprise me that they were so vocal about it – anonymously, of course.

  Unfortunately, their anonymity only made it difficult for me to reach out to them and include their voices in this piece. By looking through the public minutes of the WAHT meeting of September 28, 2016, I found a few names who had voiced opposition to the BP project (or “The 133 Boston Post Road Development”), and I managed to track down some contact numbers. I called one individual who spoke to me at length, however this person chose not to speak on the record.

  Nevertheless, I have heard the concerns from the flier, the minutes, and this individual – the influx of students, the increase of traffic, the decrease in property value, the cost to the town, and of course the loss of Weston’s natural beauty. But I am not convinced as these concerns are not validated by research or data.

  Honestly, I feel guilty. For a long time I assumed that all the residents of Weston were privately against the building of more affordable housing, and the startling statements my father and I read from that flier seemed to affirm that. That was until I spoke with Weston Affordable Housing Trust chair Sarah Rhatigan.

  Rhatigan assured me that “Most people in this town are ready to move forward with building more affordable housing. And most of the opposition are just concerns with the details – where and when it will happen, and who will be involved.”

  According to Rhatigan, there are 3,952 housing units in Weston and 149 (or 3.77%) meet state requirements for being deemed “affordable.”

  “We have a gap of 246 units that we need to create in order to meet the State’s threshold of 10% affordable housing under the law known as Chapter 40b,” Rhatigan said.

  Without filling that gap, Rhatigan said that developers will be able to come into the town and build affordable housing in whatever way they see fit according to their professional opinion. One of WAHT’s goals  is to manage decisions about affordable housing according to the town’s needs and desires, and not lose control to outside developers.

  Beyond this data presented by WAHT, I’ve also heard stories that they’ve shared. Real stories of community workers such as teachers and firefighters, people who grew up in this town, and people who have grown to love this town. Stories of how they’ve grown so fond of this community and its people, and how they won’t be able to live here because they could never afford it.

I recognize the concern from the group of residents who decided to rise up (albeit, anonymously, while everyone was inside) against the BP proposal by placing papers on the windshields of BTSN attendees. But I hope that they will change their minds.

It is disappointing to see such great opposition from residents of a town that hasn’t even reached a 5% mark in its affordable housing rate.  Weston has the opportunity to welcome families into this town with open arms and a smile – residents that will choose Weston because of the shared family values. Families that would appreciate the hospitality of a beautiful town and its residents, so that they too can call this safe and prosperous town “home”.