The Wisdom Of Passing Article 20: $45 Million Bond Authorization For Affordable Housing

Peter Hoey •

To the editor: At this year’s Town Meeting we passed an article that would allow the town to issue $45 million of bonds for affordable housing. This is not new money; this is not additional money. Rather, this is simply a way to “unlock” the stream of annual $6.5 million funding that we passed last year at the 2023 Annual Town Meeting. We will repay the bonds with less than half the $6.5 million each year.

Perhaps the best way to appreciate the wisdom of this decision is to recall the similar and successful plan the Land Bank used about 25 years ago. At that time their annual revenues from the 2 percent fees on land sales were small, and real estate values were rising rapidly. As a result, they could only buy small amounts of land each year. Someone on their board got the bright idea of issuing bonds, so they could buy more land immediately. At the 1997 Annual Town Meeting we approved a $25 million bond issue. This allowed them to buy land at 1997 prices, rather than wait until they had sufficient funds. Given how fast real estate prices were rising, they ended up with a lot more land than if they had to wait.

In 2024 our affordable housing problem is twice as severe – real estate prices are rising … AND … construction costs are rising. By issuing these bonds (and paying them off with the $6.5 million each year that we already passed) we can be much more efficient and can make that money stretch much further. Brilliant!

Peter Hoey

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