Why we need zoning reform: Meet Bryan

My name is Bryan Bryson, I’m a proud resident and community member of Dorchester. I’m also an MIT Professor.

I’m here today to tell you the story of being priced out of my neighborhood in Cambridge where I lived for a number of years. And to say that if this is happening to me, a professor making a very good salary, imagine how it’s impacting teachers, nurses, and other working families throughout our Commonwealth.

As a child, my mother, who worked as a teacher, was able to find housing for me and my three siblings. I know that if my mother were living in Massachusetts today, she would never be able to find housing for our family.

While living in Cambridge as a graduate student, my landlord wanted to raise the rent. He argued that if I couldn’t pay it, he would find other tenants who can. That was his negotiation tactic. I was paying $2,100 a month for an apartment with three roommates and one bathroom. When my landlord said he was increasing the rent to $3,100, I knew it was time to make a change.

When I tried to look for a place to buy in Cambridge, I realized that it was impossible and I was completely priced out. My search for a home was really challenging. Multiple buyers would make offers well above the asking price with some of them making offers minutes after seeing a house.

Finally, I was proud to buy my first home in Dorchester. I’m happy to live in a neighborhood that has economic and racial diversity. A neighborhood that is walkable with access to public transit. But that condo I bought for $270,000 in 2014 is now worth $450,000.

I’m sad to see this diversity slipping away in Dorchester. People are getting priced out and there are few options for stable housing affordable to people in the neighborhood. An average public-school teacher, like my mother, can’t afford to stay. How does that impact a neighborhood?

It’s time to change this. We need our legislators to act now for housing and zoning reform so that people can afford to stay in their neighborhoods. We need more walkable, vibrant, welcoming communities so that people can have real options once more about where to live.

Zoning rules and regulations are laws that embed a set of values about who neighborhoods are for and who lives here. We need to pass zoning and housing reform this session to make it so that the people who build our community and work in our community can afford to stay.

Thank you for reading and sharing my story.

Bryan Bryson

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