City Councilor Andrea Campbell: Why Bostonians Should Vote Yes on Question 5

The City of Boston is in the midst of a housing crisis. Families who have lived in their homes for five, 10, 20 years are being displaced because rents are too expensive. The price of purchasing a home in the city has increased more than two-and-a-half times between 1995 and 2005.

Andrea Campbell

Andrea Campbell

As the newly elected District 4 Boston City Councilor representing Dorchester, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale, a diverse cross-section of the city, I see the effects this crisis is having on our seniors, veterans and middle-income families who have been in the city for generations but are now contemplating moving elsewhere. Without sustainable source of adequate funding for affordable housing, we will continue to head in this direction.

This is why I co-sponsored the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in the Council and made it one of my top priorities!

The CPA, if passed in November, would establish a local, dedicated fund required to be used for the creation of affordable housing. While the average homeowner would be expected to pay approximately $24 per year, the city is expected to receive between $16 million and $20 million annually. In addition to combatting the housing crisis and keeping our hardworking families in Boston, the CPA can only be used for two other purposes: parks and historical preservation.

While our parks and historical sites, including the Mount Hope Cemetery in my district, are often reduced in the list of budget priorities behind our schools, public safety and housing needs, the CPA brings endless possibilities for transforming our parks, playgrounds, trails, gardens and recreational spaces, and rehabilitating our frequently visited historical sites.

As if these benefits weren’t enough, the CPA is a proven job creator, as evidenced by the 161 municipalities that have adopted it. According to a study by UMass Boston, within the first five years of passing the CPA, building 3,000 new homes in Boston would create 10,755 construction jobs. Job creation from parks and historic preservation projects would further boost the economic impact.

As Boston taxpayers, we pay into the CPA state fund through our transactions at the registry of deeds yet see no return because Boston, unlike the other 161 municipalities, has not adopted the CPA. It is time for Boston to reap the benefits of the CPA and we can only do that if we all vote YES on Question 5 in November.

I am proud to support the Yes Better Boston ballot initiative campaign. Please make sure to complete the entire ballot on Nov. 8 and vote YES on Question 5. The future of our communities and city depends on ensuring this revenue finally becomes available to us.

Andrea J. Campbell is the Boston District 4 City Councilor. Campbell responded to a request from Jamaica Plain News to discuss her position on Question 5.

  • Monster

    I don’t particularly mind paying $24 to help support public housing and public park preservation. That said, I sometimes think the attitude that Boston is lacking for affordable housing is a bit overstated.

    For context, according to the most recent census, there are 272,481 housing units in Boston. Of these, the best numbers I could find show that 26,992 are zoned as affordable. That’s almost exactly 10% of all housing units across the city. Furthermore, in 2015, 35% of all new units constructed in Boston were zoned as affordable housing.

    In total, Boston has more affordable housing per capita than any other major US city.

  • Ghost of Menino

    This is a scam. No matter how much construction goes on, you will never satisfy the want. There isn’t a fixed number of people you are trying to solve this problem for. Why? You can’t predict how many people who are not here yet will want to move into the city. If you magically built 40,000 units overnight guess what? There would still be people coming. So you would never end.

    All this phony baloney CPA does is allow a workaround to prop 2 1/2 and make it more expensive to live in Boston. All the while creating phoney baloney jobs that will go to special interest groups. Which is the real problem. Why doesn’t the city really try to control its expenses instead? Because they don’t want to do the hard work.

    • Eric Herot

      The claim that the supply of people who want to live in Boston is unlimited is an extraordinary one and it requires extraordinary proof. Is this something you could provide?

      And just in general, the fact that more people want to live here than can house with our current zoning restrictions is not prima face evidence that we could never build enough housing for the demand. The number of jobs available in Boston is more than most major cities, and it’s more than we have the housing for, but it’s certainly not infinite (and besides, wouldn’t that be a good problem to have?).

  • Hhss

    I am against 5 because I do not think it addresses the core problems behind the rising cost of housing – the expense of building new housing (materials + labor + duration of permitting process), limited supply of existing homes, insufficient density and lack of a fast, broad public transportation network. If you like, in addition to supply, can also throw in demand – broad, worldwide trend towards urbanization and other demographic shifts favoring city living.

    Taxing homeowners via CPA is robbing Peter to pay Paul; it does nothing to mitigate the above causes. In fact, it would exacerbate the problem, bc homeowners will pass on costs of CPA to their unsubsidized tenants.

  • Hhss

    Re job creation/new construction as a result of Prop5 – is the argument that this construction and associated jobs (“3,000 new homes in Boston [and] would create 10,755 construction jobs”) would not exist without affordable housing being built? Wouldn’t this construction happen anyway, wo Prop5, only units be targeted up market?

    …Which brings me back to 5 not addressing the core drivers of housing costs and instead treating the symptom rather than the disease.

    • Eric Herot

      This.

      I support the CPA for its funding of parks and recreation, but in terms of housing the discussion around the CPA is making me realize that we need a bit of a public lesson on the effects of subsidies in a tightly constrained market like the one for housing in Boston.

      Housing construction in Boston is not mainly limited by people’s ability to pay the cost of construction. It is limited by zoning and parking laws that prevent us from increasing the average density.

      If the supply of something is inelastic, and you introduce a subsidy, it doesn’t magically make more housing available (because housing availability is not limited by ability to pay), it just makes the housing that does go on the market more expensive by an amount proportional to the size of the subsidy (and further enriches the seller)

      Basically, you can’t use subsidies to fix a shortage, and supporters of the CPA seem to be missing that point.

      • Monster

        I rather like the fact that JP isn’t super dense. It’s nice. I’m glad those zoning and parking laws exist. Giant charmless apartment blocks aren’t for everyone.

        • Eric Herot

          Every neighborhood in America thinks that it’s current density level is the right one. Using that mentality to make policy is one of the reasons that housing in cities with strong economies is becoming too expensive for normal people to afford. Your preference for a suburban feel is not more important than people’s need to have an affordable place to live.