1. Stay on top of what’s happening with housing in your own community. That might involve reading a local paper, following local housing issues on social media, or getting a news feed from a local group.
2. Show up to hearings and meetings in your community where housing is being discussed. That might be a planning board meeting, a neighborhood association meeting, or a hearing about a specific project. Too often, a small group of people opposed to new development, are the only ones to show up and speak. It is very helpful to have a variety of voices in the room. By attending you can learn more about what’s being proposed, get a better understanding of the local process, and possibly add your voice to the pro side, which can create a useful negotiation and help elected officials.
3. Talk to your local and state elected officials about the importance of new housing. Find out where they stand. A few communities, like Boston and Somerville, have set ambitious housing production goals but many others have not. Find opportunities to talk to your state representative and state senator, your mayor and city councilor (if you live in a city), or your select board and planning board members (if you live in a town). If you’re uncomfortable making a call or scheduling a meeting, bring it up when you see them at public events in your community. Tell your local elected officials that you want your community to plan for new housing and that you expect them to publicly support new housing even in the face of neighborhood opposition. Tell your representative and senator what kinds of changes in state law you would support and remind them that every city and town needs to do its part to meet our statewide housing needs.
4. Talk to your friends and family so they better understand the need for more housing. It’s especially important that they understand why new housing is needed to keep jobs in Massachusetts and understand how decisions being made by city and town officials and by local voters often prevent construction of the new housing we need. The more people who understand the drivers of our housing problem, the more people who will advocate for new solutions and contribute to constructive local conversations.