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Your View is YourArlington's only blog. It is the site's place for opinion. To publish here, you must use your full name in most cases.

For town housing, move beyond critique to solutions

Steve Berczuk provides his view of the draft update of the five-year Arlington Housing Plan, to be reviewed Monday, Jan. 24, by the Redevelopment Board. 

Arlington vua Google Earth: Your Town, Your Future

Recent drafts of the housing plan have met with critical responses. While acknowledging that the plan has important goals, they consist almost entirely of problems with the plan, without suggesting improvements. Typical of this is Don Seltzer’s recent column. It raises some concerns, but neither accurately represents what the plan says nor proposes ways to address the concerns. Finding flaws in a proposed solution to a difficult problem is easy. Proposing options requires more work.

No plan will be ideal If you share the goal of finding ways that Arlington can do its part to address the housing crisis, the way to make progress is to identify opportunities for improvement or even questions to ask. As a moderator of the Arlington Neighbors for More Neighbors Facebook Group for the last couple of years, I’ve learned a few key things: Housing policy is complex, housing demand is regional, there is always more to learn and the best way to solve problems is through open, challenging, curious, dialogue that incorporates facts and critical thin​​king in addition to emotion and anecdote. 

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Resident tells why he calls housing plan deeply flawed

The following opinion piece about town planning's updated five-year housing plan was written by Don Seltzer of Arlington. His comments are from a longer analysis with supporting data published at He says his views are his own and that they do not represent a group.

Arlington vua Google Earth: Your Town, Your Future

On Monday, Jan. 24, Arlington’s Redevelopment Board could complete its review of the draft version of the new housing production plan before passing it on to the Select Board to approve.  The submitted plan is deeply flawed in that it does not include the required analysis of likely growth as it affects our infrastructure, particularly our schools.  Also, it diverges from the goal of increasing affordable housing by proposing measures that are only meant to improve housing choices for the very highest income households.

This plan, developed by consultants Barrett Planning Group LLC and Horsely Witten Group Inc, will replace the town's current plan, approved in 2016.  Unlike that one, the new version suffers from a serious lack of analysis and discussion of the real impacts of the proposals.

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ADUs part 3: A Family Story

Why I support Article 43

I support Article 43 because ADUs can make a small but meaningful contribution to Arlington housing. I was really pleased to read Pam Hallet and the HCA's endorsement of Article 43  last week. It's great to hear that several units of permanently affordable housing would be one impact of this proposal. I also believe that Article 43 is well crafted to help support families looking for multigenerational living situations. But before I address the parts of the proposal that I think are important, I first wanted to step back a bit and share a personal story about how an ADU was important to my own family.

A Family Story

When my grandparents were first married and began their family, there was no money for them to buy a home. So my grandfather and his parents split their single family house into what we would now call a main unit and an ADU. Over the years this ADU allowed both parts of the family to provide support to the other while retaining their privacy and independence. First my grandparents lived in the smaller unit, then they swapped as their family grew. If they had not been able to split their house, the lack of privacy would have made the arrangement untenable. Luckily it was possible in that time and place and so my mother still recounts fond childhood memories of running “next-door” to visit her grandparents. She also recalls going over to check on them as their health declined. Thanks to the nearby family support they were able to live in their house with dignity until their deaths. This kind of multigenerational support, first for a young family, and then later for aging parents, would not have been possible without an ADU. I know from family experience that ADUs can allow people to make best use of their home as their needs change over time.

A Well Thought Out Proposal

As I have studied the proposal that Article 43 puts forwrd, I have come to appreciate how thoroughly thought out it is. The proponents have crafted this zoning bylaw change in a way that takes into account the things that other communities have learned about allowing ADUs over the last several years. For example, other communities across the country have found that requiring a special permit discourages average homeowners from pursuing an ADU. In terms of special permits, this proposal treats ADUs like any other addition - if you’re not adding more than 750 square feet, you go to the building department for a building permit. Other communities have also found that complicated requirements about who can live in an ADU (and for how long) make it difficult for homeowners to adapt to the unexpected events that life brings. It can also affect their ability to secure favorable funding from a bank. The attestation in this proposal ensures that homeowners will be building ADUs, gives the building inspector something simple to enforce, and acknowledges that life does not always continue on the path we envision. Once we enact this proposal, I look forward to seeing ADUs spring up around town, providing space for a grown child to return, allowing an aging couple to remain in place, adding a small apartment to the rental market, or adding an affordable apartment to the HCA’s stock.

Join Me in Supporting ADUs

I hope that the rest of Town Meeting will join me in supporting Article 43 and allow by-right ADUs so that Arlington families and organizations like the HCA will have the opportunity to use their homes in ways that best serve them!

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Latest Comments

Don Seltzer For town housing, move beyond critique to solutions
22 January 2022
Mr. Berczuk accuses me of not getting the facts straight when I wrote that the draft Plan does not meet the State requirement "At a minimum, the Plan must examine...The capacity of the infrastructure ...
Bob Sprague Letters: Emailing Advocate? Copy it here
17 January 2022
Let the public know with a letter to the editor. For details, see Sprague

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