Housing Agendas

Newton’s divisive Austin street debate of 2015 and Orr Block debate of 2017 reflected the many diverse interests and agendas each side had as well as the agendas each assumed the other side had.  Reflecting on the months of discussion and public comment, it is easy to enumerate over 30 interests on each side.

Unfortunately, in the head of debate, each side often presumes the other embraces the “worst” and rejects the “best” of their respective positions.  Furthermore each side will tend to defend the spectrum of positions beyond their individual priorities in service of their cause.

The outline below lists just some the stated concerns and goals of each side of the debate.   Each side also alleged a fair number of unsavory agendas on the part of the other as well.    All this added up to a fairly toxic debate, not unlike divisions seen nationally in the recent election.

So what can be done?   Recognize each side of an issue has worthy goals and do our best to debate with civility and mutual respect, and to build consensus solutions that the city can get behind before bringing things to the point of an up or down vote.   Hopefully we can all agree that developers should not get an out-sized return at the expense of residents.

When it comes to choosing the city council composition for the city, we should recognize that Ward Councilors, elected smaller-scale elections by 8 different slices of the city’s electorate along with the At-Large Councilors elected city-wide provide the council with the diversity of viewpoints  needed to balance the desires and concerns of all residents.

Impact Area Desire for Concern over
Local Business foot traffic  Loss of convenient parking
Retail eatery competition
failures during construction
rising lease costs
Area Business Downward rents
consumer growth
workforce housing
City Character Inclusive/Diversity  Density/village character
Beautify lots Building scale out of character
40B avoidance Loss of future use flexibility
Smart Growth Green construction Loss of commuter parking
“transit oriented” Loss of short errand parking
Walkable Increase in density/traffic
Solar on roof Congestion/traffic
Dense village centers Loss of senior center parking
Housing “affordable” Downward rents (landlords)
voucher-eligible Upward rents (renters)
downsizing seniors Loss of naturally affordable
millennial housing
city employees
Shorter waiting lists
“Help the region”
Neighborhood Get rid of ugly lot Up/downward rental pressure
Underground utilities On-street parking demand
Increased retail Lack of process/early input
Downsize nearby Improvement delays
New plazas Insufficient new parking
 Avoid 40B elsewhere Residents parking at-grade
Flawed parking studies
City Hall Increased tax base School costs
1-time revenue Public to private transfer
Political success Public land giveaway
 Employee housing Flawed assumptions



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