Heading to Martha's Vineyard to hear about housing needs



The Cape & Islands Housing Plans

As our planning team at JM Goldson completes housing plans for the Mid-Cape Town of Barnstable and the Island of Nantucket (teamed with RKG Associates), we are excited to announce new projects in the Cape and Islands region.

Teaming with Judi Barrett and the planners at RKG Associates Inc., JM Goldson began work on new projects this summer to prepare Housing Production Plans for the Lower Cape Town of Brewster and the six Martha’s Vineyard towns: Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury.

labor market decliningThough we are in the early stages of these new projects, some similarities are obvious – namely their success as desirable summer destinations leads to a scarcity of year-round housing that is affordable to families and local workers.

As one business owner in Barnstable recently told us during a community workshop for the Housing Production Plan, employees of her business will often live off the Cape due to lack of homes in their price range and commute long distances for her jobs – people often get tired of this lifestyle, which leads to low worker retention, difficulty attracting skilled workers, and directly hurts the business. Other community members in the region tell us that their adult children are moving out of the region to find homes they can afford in areas with better job opportunities. These testimonies are supported by the data – millennials are moving out of the region and the population is aging – leading to a declining labor market.

As we help these communities plan for future community development and preservation, two common themes continue to emerge:  1) more housing choice is called for to support the needs of residents and foster a stronger local economy and 2) the location and design of new development must respect and protect the region’s fragile ecosystem and natural beauty.




The Missing Middle: Where is the mid-sized housing?

“Many people age 50 and older are looking to be part of a social network rather than living in an isolated environment with only people their age. Missing Middle tends to be in communities that are age diverse,” says architect Daniel Parolek.

When planners and housing specialists talk about the need for more housing options, we are often talking about what architect Daniel Parolek calls the “missing middle” – accessory apartments, townhouses, duplexes, four plexes, work/live units, etc. . .

Often this type of housing is missing as a result of overly-restrictive local zoning bylaws created decades ago.

In this AARP Livable Communities interview with Parolek, he describes how the idea of the American Dream is rapidly shifting and that more and more Americans want to live in a compact, walkable neighborhood with commercial amenities and services.

Can we embrace this new/old vision? What will it take to create these types of neighborhoods again?



MHP's 10th Annual Housing Institute - Registration is open!

Sign up and spread the word! The Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s Housing Institute (6/14-15) is a two-day intensive workshop in Devens that actively engages participants in discussion and problem solving around issues related to the development of affordable housing.

Lots of great sessions this year including “Illegal Neighborhoods” – How to use zoning to create great communities led by planning consultant Ken Buckland and Difficult Choices – Site Selection and Due Diligence led by development consultants, Kevin Maguire from Oxbow Partners and Rebecca Plaut Mautner.

I’m thrilled to be conducting two trainings again with Jenny Raitt (new Planning Director for Arlington, MA):

  • Where to Begin: Assessing Housing Needs and Creating Plans
  • Building Community Support for Affordable Housing

More info and to sign up.


Community Workshop in Brookline on June 1st



Upcoming: Barnstable Public Forum



Just Released: Community Preservation Act & Affordable Housing Guidebook

I am thrilled to have had a hand in the new CPA and Affordable Housing Guidebook: Create, preserve, support: Using Community Preservation Act funds to foster local housing initiatives.

The guidebook is hot off the press – just published by Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP)! The guidebook is the result of a highly collaborative effort with a great team including Susan Connelly, Rita Farrell, Laura Shufelt, Carsten Snow, and Calandra Clark at MHP’s Community Assistance team. Thanks also to a great team of outsider reviewers: Stuart Saginor and Katherine Roth at the Community Preservation Coalition and Shelly Goehring at the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance.

Check it out and spread the word about this valuable new free resource for CPA communities. Free download here.


Exploring indicators of housing need in Arlington, MA

Community conversations about local housing needs and development can be difficult and complex.  At JM Goldson, we’ve found that creating visually-compelling materials to describe indicators of housing need can enhance public understanding and deepen community dialogue about housing issues.

This example of infographics from Arlington, MA, was developed in collaboration with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Town of Arlington for interactive community workshops about Arlington’s 2016 Housing Production Plan update.

Housing Needs in Arlington: a visual explanation of indicators

JMG_arlington_info_12 p.2


Envisioning best future for Stockbridge in 2036

Stockbridge, MA, Community Visioning Workshop January 28, 2016

Stockbridge, MA, Community Visioning Workshop January 28, 2016

After a terrific turnout at the first community visioning workshop on January 27, the town is preparing to host a second community workshop. During the first event, which had over 85 participants, townspeople used “perfect-world thinking” to envision what Stockbridge could be at its very best in 2036. The Town’s Visioning Committee members facilitated ten break-out groups in a guided brainstorming exercise that generated energetic discussion. The evening concluded with a lighting-round presentation from the Visioning Committee members summarizing the main points raised during the break-out discussions.

This first community workshop and the upcoming workshop, are part of the Town’s effort to create a vision for the future of the community. Before there can be a meaningful plan to move forward with community preservation and development, residents should agree on a picture of what they want their community to look like, feel like, and be like considering forces that are influencing the community’s future.

To help answer these questions, the Town of Stockbridge appointed a new Visioning Committee and is sponsoring two interactive community workshops, designed and facilitated by professional planning consultants Connie Kruger of Kruger Consulting in Amherst and Jennifer Goldson of JM Goldson community preservation + planning in Boston.

The community workshops include information about how Stockbridge is changing, group discussion exercises, and polling. The first workshop, “Time to Dream,” focused the participants on the best imagined future; whereas the second workshop on March 7th, “Time for Reality Check,” will ground the vision and set goals for the future.


Concord community weighs in on local housing needs

JxiJdJ7jXDsOok220lhPlwog7RfXBMsDEodNl-NSlhkThe Town of Concord is largely a success story when it comes to achieving affordable housing goals – it exceeded the state’s c.40B 10% goal, it has allocated millions of dollars of Community Preservation Act funds for local initiative projects, and it has flexible zoning provisions to encourage development of affordable housing.

However, Concord’s affordable housing issues are not solved and the town recognizes there are many community benefits from continuing to address its well documented housing needs.  With an aging population and a community that is not affordable for the average household in the region or even to Concord’s existing households, how can Concord both improve the likelihood that residents can age in the community while increasing affordable options for young families and professionals? Online survey and community workshop results point to opportunities and solutions identified by residents themselves.

Across both the survey and the forum, participants identified the following priorities:

  • Small Homes:  Preserve existing small homes and encourage the construction of small homes, particularly energy-efficient homes.
  • Housing Options: Increase residents’ ability to age in the community with increased housing options and services to enable older adults to downsize but stay in the community.
  • Mixed Price Ranges and Affordable Housing: Create homes in a mix of price ranges, including affordable homes for families.
  • Diverse Housing Options Near Villages:  Develop housing options close to village centers and with convenient access to public transit and shops.

Workshop’s Interactive Exercises

To achieve workshop objectives, JM Goldson facilitated interactive exercises that engaged workshop participants and fostered focused discussion. The workshop consisted of two group exercises, as well as digital group polling and small group discussions.

Digital group polling enables participants to learn about themselves and the group while also gathering information about housing and affordability. Many of the polling questions were presented to test knowledge and inform participants on local and regional housing need.  The exercise emphasized that Concord is not affordable for households earning the regional or Concord median income.

With Concord’s home values – median home price was about $775,000 – most of the homes on the market wouldn’t be within the reach of existing Concord residents. Concord households earning the Town’s median income of $134,705 could afford to buy a home of up to about $460,000.

Group exercise #1 was an ice breaker exercise that consisted of questions designed to get participants talking about the types of homes they have lived in throughout their lives and what type of home they hope to live in someday, if different than their current homes.

The purpose of group exercise #2 was to generate discussion about Concord’s 2010 Housing Production Plan and to help set policy-direction for the 2015 update.

JM Goldon is working with the Regional Housing Services Office and the Town to develop a draft Housing Production Plan that will include goals and strategies based on an updated housing needs assessment as well as the survey and workshop feedback.  The draft will be available for community review in early November.