Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Family-Friendly Housing: Councilor-At-Large Candidates Respond to Questionnaire

Many of the candidates for the Boston City Councilor-At-Large seat responded to the Brighton Centered questionnaire. Here you can see all of their responses to one of those questions.

QUESTION: Vancouver, British Columbia, requires 25% of their new housing stock built downtown to be “family-friendly.” What is your vision of the specific design elements that would make housing “family-friendly,” and should Boston adopt a similar requirement?

COUNCILOR FELIX ARROYO: "Family-friendly" housing must not only be truly affordable to working parents, it should be 3-5 bedroom housing, located near quality schools and recreation opportunities, and be free of common childhood hazards such as lead paint and faulty wiring. Most importantly, it must be quality housing at the same time it is affordable. I certainly would support and will strongly consider introducing a new Ordinance which would create a similar requirement in certain Boston neighborhoods (such as Brighton) where institutional expansion, overbuilding of luxury condominiums and other forces have driven out too many of our City’s working families.

JOHN CONNOLLY: I am running for City Council because I am committed to making Boston a family-friendly city again, which means adequate and affordable housing, quality public schools, and safe streets. I was born and raised in Boston and my wife Meg and I are going to raise our family here, so I know the importance of these factors in attracting and sustaining families. Among the ways that we can make housing more family-friendly is by persuading developers to build more three and four bedroom units, by encouraging developers to incorporate child-care centers into their new buildings, and encouraging the expansion of public spaces throughout the city.

COUNCILOR MICHAEL FLAHERTY: As a parent trying to raise a family in the city, I have a personal and professional interest in making Boston a place to raise families. That’s why I have consistently called upon developers to increase their supply of senior efficient units, as well as three-bedroom units. In addition, I believe our city should be crafting a housing program that links affordable housing to opportunity. We can do this through sound housing policy that places affordable housing units in areas of vast opportunities for advancement, whether it’s in employment, education, financial wealth, or family self-sufficiency. Affordable housing units that are deliberately located in a place that is convenient to high performing schools, prolonged employment opportunities, reliable public transportation, and quality child care facilities will certainly open the doors to new opportunities for advancement and make it possible for families to stay in Boston.

MATTHEW GEARY: Boston needs a concrete plan to build affordable housing, and not just depend on what the city might be able to get out of developers. A democratically run Boston Redevelopment Authority would respond to the needs of working people in Boston and build the type of affordable housing that is needed. Developers currently choose projects based on what makes them the most profit, since the city has no independent planning all they can do is say they will try to make the proposed plans to respond to local needs. Neighborhoods should be making the decisions, telling the city what types of development are needed, not just hoping for a 25% influence.

MARTIN HOGAN: I feel that we need to help keep the families that have strived and worked hard throughout the generations and embrace new and forming families that may move into our neighborhoods. However, I want to make sure that it is affordable for all residents and in doing so making sure that all have the right and ability to choose which neighborhood out of our many diverse areas in which they would like to call home. I do not feel that setting aside specific “family friendly” lands will help us accomplish this. I feel that this will only lead to more economic segregation and will drive a wedge between our residents. I believe we need to advocate more for affordable housing both for low and median level residents and strive to make sure our neighborhoods are safe and well kept so that the flight of the Boston resident does not continue.

COUNCILOR SAM YOON: I am very impressed with the initiative that the city of Vancouver is taking around family-friendly housing. Developing workforce housing for families is a challenge for every major city. As chair of the Housing Committee for the City Council, I know it is a challenge to get developers to build family housing as the space that would be used for a 3rd or 4th bedroom could be used to build another unit – therefore more profitable for the builder. I have two young children myself so I understand the needs of a growing family. My vision of family friendly housing revolves around three key pillars: space, public amenities and affordability.

You cannot raise a family in a one-bedroom condominium or a studio apartment and I constantly hear from families in Boston struggling to find appropriate housing. The City must find ways to encourage developers to build units with multiple bedrooms and more square-footage. Developers need to contribute more to enhancing public spaces. One reason families are moving downtown in Vancouver is the close proximity of everything to where they live. Everything from parks to grocery stores to daycare centers and schools is within walking distance of the family’s home. Finally we need to look at the affordability of living downtown. Again, as a father of two young children I realize the expenses that come with having a young family. Right now housing is too expensive for people all over Boston, not just families. One of the issues I ran on in 2005 and I have worked on during my two years in office is increasing the affordability of housing for all residents of Boston regardless of the neighborhood.

As it pertains to Boston I would support such a measure. I would like to see more of the students who attend college in Boston stay and raise a family here. This could mean promoting family friendly housing downtown. I would be supportive of learning more about Vancouver’s initiative and how it would work in Boston.

Candidate David Wyatt and Councilor Stephen Murphy did not respond to the questionnaire.

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