On Nov. 2, besides the tax issues, we have to
vote on Question 2, which covers so many things that don't make
sense to me.
I won't go into all the complexities of
Chapter 40B, which Question 2 repeals. You can read the red
voter information booklet you should have received in the mail
Simply explained, this state law allows
developers to bypass local zoning ordinances in communities that
don't have "enough" (defined as at least 10 percent of total
housing stock) "affordable" housing.
One person's "affordable" is another's
impossible dream, however, and I'm not clear on how government
tells the difference.
For some reason government's attempt to
support "affordable housing" reminds me of Fannie Mae, which
almost destroyed the economy by helping people "afford" homes
they couldn't pay for.
Anyhow, my five-room cottage in Marblehead
was barely affordable for my then-husband and me in 1974 when we
bought it for $34,000. I certainly couldn't afford to buy it or
anything else in this town today.
Property taxes make a home even less
affordable. As some people who advocate overrides suggest,
perhaps some residents really can't afford Marblehead and should
move; this attitude may partly explain the defeat of 10
overrides last spring.
Anyhow, again, the reason I'm ambivalent on
Question 2 is that we have to decide which government entity we
want to control our alleged property rights — the state or the
Twelve years ago I had just one bathroom; it
was on its own level, halfway up the stairs to the second floor
with its two bedrooms. My mother talked me into adding a
I was "allowed" by local zoning to add the
bath because there was enough room on both sides of my house. I
still don't understand why the amount of land on the east side
had anything to do with building a bath on the west side.
When I broke my foot and had to live
downstairs, I was glad I'd listened to my mother, and that I'd
had just enough yard on the east side to build on the west.
I'd never paid much attention to 40B, but
thought of it during an earlier town override election when
wealthier people wanted to raise my property taxes again, beyond
the existing levy limit, to raise more money for the schools.
I drew up a plan for my and my neighbor's
lots. We'd find a developer, use 40B to bypass local zoning,
tear down the two little houses, build two eight-unit, two-story
"affordable" (if government subsidized) apartment buildings,
then take our profits out west, leaving the town to educate all
the new kids instead of just providing two adults with public
safety, plowing and trash collection.
Unfortunately for my plan, I like my
neighbors and didn't want them to lose value in their homes if
40B tenants allowed the property to deteriorate or brought crime
to the neighborhood.
Yes, I do understand why people in some
communities want zoning that will prevent "affordable" housing.
It's not that I'd mind more diversity in town — my local friends
and I are pretty different from the wealthier override
supporters ourselves — but I don't want my property taxes to
increase to service the new housing.
I'm sure this resistance is some of the
motivation behind the effort to repeal 40B. A yes vote would
override the state override of local zoning laws that often
leads to overriding Prop. 2½ for
the required new schools.
In my ideal world, the state would use the
broad-based income and sales taxes to fund vouchers for basic
education, and property taxes would be used only for
property-related services. Anyone could build any kind of
housing on his own property, creating different kinds of
neighborhoods. Public safety agencies would make sure all
neighborhoods are safe.
But we live in the real world, where property
taxes pay for education, local government can tell me what I'm
allowed to build, state government can tell local government
that it has to let developers build affordable housing, and
political correctness and liberal "compassion" sometimes
interfere with law enforcement in public housing.
Communities try to control their quality of
life with zoning, while zoning often interferes with individual
In some places a home must have two acres all
to itself. In others a landowner can create a mobile home park,
while others won't allow even one mobile home on your extra lot.
Besides, the state doesn't consider mobile homes "affordable
housing" that could help satisfy 40B requirements, another thing
I don't understand.
The state's hostility to landlords, who must
deal with unreasonable tenant protection laws, also discourages
the creation of more affordable rental housing.
And in a final absurdity, the United States
Supreme Court has ruled in the Kelo decision that a community
can take your little, affordable home by eminent domain if it
can get more property tax revenue from a shopping mall on that
piece of land. This reminds me of the documented abuses of 40B
by developers who scam the system, and the many unsuccessful
attempts to reform it on Beacon Hill.
The whole status-quo "affordable housing"
thing doesn't make sense. I'm voting yes on Question 2 to repeal