The Daily Dirt: What New York can learn from a Boston suburb’s housing fight

Massachusetts community sought to stop transit-oriented development

Massachusetts Housing Fight Has Lessons for New York
Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (Getty)

A suburb in Boston offers some housing lessons for New York.

The town of Milton, roughly 10 miles from Boston, voted this month not to comply with state law.

The MTBA Communities Act, approved in 2021, requires towns and cities served by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to have at least one zoning district near transit that allows multifamily housing as-of-right. That’s right — just one district where such housing can be built (whether it’s built or not).

That was one district too many for residents of Milton.

In December, the town approved a plan to comply with the state law, but a group of residents collected enough signatures to create a ballot measure for residents to vote on the plan, according to the Milton Times. They voted it down.

Last week, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey revoked $140,800 in grant money from Milton because of its failure to comply with state law, NBC Boston reports. The town also will not be eligible for other grant money.

New York is toying with a similar idea. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Pro-Housing Communities program gives localities first dibs on some state discretionary funding if they meet certain housing targets or approve a plan to eventually do so.

The governor is seeking to make access to this funding conditional on localities getting certified, hoping that will incentivize more towns and villages to volunteer to build more housing. So far, 129 localities have started the application process and 20 have been certified, according to the state.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Whether Massachusetts succeeds in forcing Milton and other non-complying towns to allow more housing remains to be seen. But how New York’s neighbors handle their housing shortages could provide some guidance, if only to underscore that carrots (incentives) without sticks (mandates) is not enough.

What we’re thinking about: Have you tried Apple’s Vision Pro headset? Do you think it will change how you work? Send a note to kathryn@therealdeal.com.

A thing we’ve learned: Niceville in Florida was once called Boggy Bayou. The town was renamed in the 1920s by a postmaster’s daughter, according to a 1996 story in the Ocala Star-Banner.

Elsewhere in New York…

— Flaco, the beloved Eurasian eagle-owl who escaped from the Central Park Zoo a year ago, died Friday, according to the New York Times. He flew into a co-op building at 267 West 89th Street. A state bill to make buildings safer for birds has been renamed for the owl. It’s now the Feathered Lives Also Count Act.

— A former resident of Kinnelon, N.J., must pay at least $13,000 for illegally cutting down 32 trees on his neighbor’s property, Gothamist reports. He may be on the hook for another $1 million in restitution, or the estimated cost of replanting the trees.

—  Ruth Gottesman, wife of the late Wall Street financier David Gottesman, donated $1 billion to provide free tuition to students of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, the New York Times reports. The donation is likely the largest ever given to a medical school in the United States.

Closing Time

Residential: The priciest residential closing on Monday was $4.5 million for a condo unit at 199 Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was $4.95 million for a 3,952- square-foot multifamily building in Carroll Gardens.New to the Market: The priciest residential property to hit the market on Monday was $12.85 million for a 8,740-square-foot townhouse in Lenox Hill. Leslie J. Garfield has the listing. — Matthew Elo