Many of the ideas proposed by the Town emphasize mixed-use development, even though recent research shows that in municipalities all over the country these projects often result in empty storefronts and continued increases in housing prices. The Town's proposals fail to specify affordable unit requirements for projects of less than six units. They allow the elimination of open space in many cases, and offer no safeguards against the displacement of existing residents and businesses.

The findings of the Master Plan state that residents want to maintain Arlington's relative affordability, plan for climate change, and protect our neighborhoods and historic areas. Much recent research points to new approaches to these issues, and we believe the Town has an obligation to its citizens to investigate them. Here are some of those ideas, to spur discussion:

~ Protect our environment, and plan with climate resiliency in mind. Create land trusts, protect open space requirements.

~ Prioritize affordability, and consider various means to achieve it. The Town is currently establishing a transfer fee and affordable housing trust fund. It should also explore low- or no-interest housing loans for affordable housing, revolving loan funds, lease-to-purchase options.

"A number of cities have now developed plans to expand affordable housing options for a broad spectrum of renters, from those facing homelessness up to middle-income households. In addition to federal funds, these plans draw on a range of resources that include linkage fees on new commercial development, tax-increment financing, taxes on real estate transactions, and the use of publicly owned land. "

~ Consider creating incentives, perhaps a one-time payment from the Town or a permanent reduction in property taxes, for landlords to enter into an agreement with the Town to deed-restrict their rental units at affordable rates. This would be less expensive than building new units, and the impact could be significant: there are currently over 1,400 rental units in East Arlington alone which are at or below HUD rates.

~ Accelerate the renovation of Menotomy Manor by systematically replacing the existing two-story townhouses with three-story buildings, and perhaps including several retail spaces that would serve that community.

~ Explore relationships with developers who specialize in affordable projects, including those that not only build new, but also convert and manage existing properties.

~ Encourage design that is appropriate in scale and appearance for the targeted districts. They currently contain a mix of single family, 2-family, and multi-unit buildings, and are a continuous part of our other neighborhoods. They don’t exist in a vacuum ripe for transformation.

~ Encourage redevelopment over teardowns, and enhance current programs for the purchase, re-use, and conversion of existing houses, condominiums, and multi-family housing to affordable units, such as those provided by the Housing Corporation of Arlington, the Arlington Housing Authority, and others.

~ Protect existing residents from displacement, by considering right-to-return and other policies.

~ Explore options such as co-housing, congregate housing, and 55+ housing.

~ Encourage the growth of our commercial and industrial tax base to help decrease the percentage of revenues residents must provide, and provide jobs here in Arlington.

~ Capitalize on our status as one of the Battle Road communities, by discouraging large-scale development on main corridors near historic sites, as recommended by the Battle Road Scenic Byway Corridor Management Plan.

~ Work for statewide changes, such as the $500 million bond bill proposed by Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton (SD 799), which would be financed by a real estate transfer tax, with half the proceeds set aside for public housing authorities and half for nonprofit developers of low-income housing.

~ Support expanded regional transportation, such as high speed rail, that could make development attractive in underserved areas such as central Massachusetts, and ease some of the housing burden on the greater Boston area.

~ Encourage resident input, not just rubber-stamping of Town proposals after minimal and highly-programmed sessions. Make sure boards and committees have more-balanced representation, rather than the current over-representation of the real estate community.