Letter: Debate location, not principle 

September 29, 2023

Public discussion of Concord’s response to the MBTA Communities Act continues. Under this legislation, municipalities served by the MBTA must zone some land for multi-family housing. On September 20, the Planning Board presented three possible scenarios for facilitating multi-family housing in compliance with the law. Concord citizens presented many constructive comments. Now the Board must craft a detailed draft zoning bylaw designating specific parcels of land in Concord for multi-family housing. The minimum density in such zones must be 15 units per acre — not much more than in condominium developments such as Concord Greene, and less than we see in existing buildings off Keyes Road near the center of Concord. 

Concord residents will certainly have different opinions about each possible site to be included in the final proposal. But I hope Concord citizens will focus on the designation of particular sites, and not on the underlying principle of the MBTA Communities Act. 

It is clear that the ONLY way that Concord can offer a home to citizens across the income spectrum is by allowing more multi-unit housing. Today, the cost of land and construction is such that even households with incomes well above average cannot buy a single-family home in Concord. Our agricultural and conservation land is a wonderful asset, but there are few sites where even small single-family houses could be built. If we want Concord to offer housing to a range of citizens, from low-income workers to young professionals to downsizing elders, this can only be done by building multi-family housing. 

To reject the MBTA Communities Act in its entirety is to make a clear statement — that Concord is effectively off limits to new residents of modest means. Until recent years, Concord offered housing across the income spectrum. No longer. Let’s focus on the right place to put multi-family housing in order to preserve our cultural and community heritage. But let us not close the door to Concord for an increasing share of the population. Please engage with the Planning Board on the merits of specific sites and let us not argue about the principle underlying the MBTA Communities Act. 

Frank “Rich” Feeley 

President, Concord Housing Foundation