Justin Whittier President of FSNA

The Big Push — Part 1

So, there’s a BIG propaganda push underway aimed at promoting new housing construction in Salem. If you’re thinking “Wha? Don’t we have a ton of housing newly built and in the pipeline?”
Yup, we do. On the order of 1,200 units.
The propaganda two-step here is the following: “We are facing a shortage of housing in general and affordable housing in particular in the metro-Boston region, so come on, Salem, let’s BUILD!”
There is much to be said on this topic, but first and foremost, let’s acknowledge that what may be a regional need is NOT THE SAME as what is a Salem-specific need, and likewise what the region can provide is NOT THE SAME as what Salem can provide.
Even if you accept completely the regional need to build, you by no means must accept that Salem must build — much less be the FOCUS. 
But that’s exactly what we’re seeing.
Our own City government has partnered with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council — whose mission to promote growth — to produce a series of videos meant to convince Salem that it must build. This, of course, joins pamphlets and meetings and community “listening” sessions.
You might think “Well, if it’s a crisis, we must shoulder the burden like everyone else and do our part.”
But everyone else isn’t doing their part.
Governor Baker has featured our own Mayor Driscoll and the two have joined to promote building (and weakening local oversight to do so — to be continued).
So what is the governor’s own Swampscott doing? Recent data puts it at around 3.7% affordable — maybe lower. Salem is close to 13% — well above the state-mandated 10%.
There are few communities around us that are on par with us in terms of affordability. And many, like Swampscott, have MUCH LESS.
Salem, statistically, is younger, poorer, and our housing is less expensive, with a much higher percentage of affordable housing than almost all of our neighboring towns and cities. Salem is around half renters; other cities and towns are MUCH lower.
Hasn’t Salem done its part? Isn’t it DOING its part? Isn’t it time for other communities to step up?