LETTER: A Chilly Reception From Housing Advocates

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By Linda Scott
Watertown Resident

Let’s go back to April 25, 2024, when I visited the April Watertown Democratic Town Committee Meeting.

The Watertown Democratic Town Committee Meeting:

One of my public meeting stops was the Watertown Democratic Town Committee (WDTC) Meeting to see what they had on their minds. I noticed that Dan Pritchard, one of the four founders of Housing for All Watertown (HAW) was going to be speaking. I was interested.

I want to thank the WDTC for being so welcoming to this “Independent” voter. This meeting was intended to be a “meet the candidates” night, but Dan was given a few minutes to speak, which turned into so much time, that they had to stop the conversation so that the other candidates could have a chance to introduce themselves.

It started out with Dan confidently introducing himself and HAW to this group of town Democrats, touting 104 Main St. (think Post Office closing) as one of HAW’s “success stories.” It ended with him appealing to the group to give him and HAW a chance … “we’re just getting started,” he said.

The WDTC Reaction to the HAW Housing Agenda:

First question/statement to Dan out of the gate was “I’m very concerned with your group’s emphasis on market rate (very expensive) housing units.” Then there was a question asking Dan to define “affordable,” because so far none of these building units were affordable to regular Watertown folks. That was followed by a woman who was skeptical of how well this (HAW’s and the City’s plan … yes, HAW appears to have a political inside track with some of our Councilors and the City government) was going to work without major improvements to the MBTA. That received an “amen” from others in the group.

A gray haired gentleman said, “Give me a reason as a Watertown homeowner that I should support you and your group.”

I turned to my friend after Dan’s strange response. I asked, “Did Dan just say that with all of this new development in Watertown that this man might be able to continue to live in town as he gets older, because they’ll build a nursing home???” She nodded affirmation.

HAW’s “Success Story”:

Word is that the O’Connor lawyers (for the 104 Main St. HAW “success story”) are aggressively exercising their eviction of tenants in the brick row houses on Cross Street, a procedure that was described to me as having all of the insensitivity and persistence of a professional debt collector. By all accounts, it looks like they’ve already been successful at evicting the tenants at 53 Pleasant St.

HAW’s Plans:

At the end of his presentation to Watertown Democrats, Dan stated that HAW has 300 names on their mailing list, and they plan to “out-organize” the opposition. (aka, people who want a more moderate and nuanced approach to growth in Watertown).

I’ve spoken with several people who signed up for the HAW mailing list, which is surprisingly hard to do. One woman that I know has tried repeatedly to join, and HAW has repeatedly turned a blind eye to her request. The working theory on why this has happened is that HAW is not interested in signing up anyone who may have an opposing idea or two.

As a matter of fact, at the WDTC meeting on April 25th, there was a woman who had been summarily dropped from the HAW mailing list after she disagreed with HAW members at a City commission meeting. (One HAW Steering Committee member at that meeting mouthed a very distinct and unfriendly “f-cking b-tch” as this woman expressed her opinion).

At the April 25th WDTC meeting, after raising her hand, she was pointedly ignored by Dan, even after no other hands were raised. To speak, she had to say, “Excuse me. Are you ignoring me?” Dan grudgingly took her question.

A Message to Dan and HAW:

Dan, I’ve spoken with a variety of people who initially signed up for HAW and what they thought was a good idea at the time. They are now rethinking that decision.

The Watertown folks who oppose your plans to flood this City with high priced, gentrifying real estate in the futile hopes of prices going down may not be organized, but they are many and growing by the day. And contrary to HAW allegations, they care deeply about this City and its current and future residents.

Finally, our newest Watertown Square Housing Units. Are we feeling more “affordable” yet?:

Thirty-five units that currently, I believe, at the discretion of the planners, do not count toward the MBTA total of 1701:

166 Main Street 5th “level”

2 beds/ 2 baths Included: garbage Washer/dryer 1411 Sq. Feet

Pet friendly … Dogs $50-$100/month … cats $50/month Parking: 1 space/ $175/month
Rent: $4,850/month


14 thoughts on “LETTER: A Chilly Reception From Housing Advocates

  1. So I am not going to respond to the characterization of Dan at that meeting. I wasn’t there, but what I can assume is that his professional training as a facilitator led him not to engage in certain ways. I have known Dan since 2016. He’s a good man; very respectful of his mother and being the best dad he can to his daughter.

    If you would like to provide names of folks who are on HAW’s list and are dissatisfied, then we can remove them. People needn’t be part of groups that don’t provide them with what they are looking for.

    As for being affordable, you cannot take a point in time and then extrapolate its values to represent the cumulative effect. It ‘s like measuring total weight loss by one Monday morning. Prices will go done when more than x number of units is added to the total number of units. X number will not 5 nor will it be 200.

  2. Wow. The rhetoric in your letters grows more incendiary by the day. Anyone who disagree with has a nefarious agenda or is representing some special interest, despite any evidence to prove such assertions. There are legitimate arguments on both sides of this issue. You are doing nothing to inform the debate.

  3. Thank you Linda for this important letter of information.
    The initial premise of affordable housing for people of Watertown is an admirable concept I think most of us can get behind. But as you point out, this groups idea that more housing will lead to lower cost housing is flawed.
    In order for an organization, reporting itself to be beneficial to the community to be credible it should be able to function while listening to critical ideas amongst it’s members..
    Democracy is messy but the debate at it’s core is what brings us to a place where we can make better decisions than we would make otherwise. Debate can save us from our short shortsightedness often fueled by noble intentions.
    I was saddened to read the reply “If you would like to provide names of folks who are on HAW’s list and are dissatisfied, then we can remove them” – this is not a concept beneficial of a noble cause. It is what you do when you can’t argue for your concept or position.
    The solution of affordable housing has never been shown that more will equal less expensive.
    Affordable has always been a challenging goal to achieve. It’s complicated by many economic factors such as the health of the economy as a whole. As Linda Scott has pointed out in this resent Housing example, the results may not be what you expect.
    My suggestion to HAW is to allow more debate so that you can become the best you can be. Staying true to your goal does not mean to not listen.
    To the leadership of HAW – I support you goal but not necessarily you premise or method on how to get there.

    • I am sorry to hear that you were saddened by my comment. The impetus for that comment comes from individuals joining HAW who have no intention of wanting to comply with the MBTA Communities Law and/or want a minimum of 1701 units. The premise of HAW is to be comply and be open to more than the minimum in order to effectively address the housing crisis. We are a big tent organization made up of different positions on the political spectrum, ages, townies and non townies, and economic levels. We have a wide range of opinions on parking, height, bikes, mass transit, vegetation, architectural style, but we are all open to more than the minimal ask. Because of this, we cannot be everything to everyone. However, what I have learned with my time in HAW is that there will be situations where we will align with others who do not support our stance. This has already happen in our work in public housing.

  4. The reference to “folks who oppose your plans to flood this City with high priced, gentrifying real estate in the futile hopes of prices going down” really caught my eye. Perhaps your disagreement with people on policy is really your dissatisfaction with basic economics. Prices which you attempt to pejoratively refer to as “market rate”, which is really only a non-qualitative and accurate description, are due to a demand which far outstrips supply. With essentially all available land having been built upon there is no more space horizontally, thus you must build vertically to increase supply and thus move supply closer to demand and reduce the increase of prices. You are correct that building a few hundred more units likely won’t cause prices to go down, but that isn’t because it is the wrong strategy. It is because you have many variables impacting both the supply and demand side of the pricing equation. If you have an economic downturn that impacts everyone’s financial wellness (particularly industries thriving in Watertown) to the extent that demand drops significantly, that would cause prices to moderate. Is this desirable? No, I don’t think so….being in demand and thus having increasing prices is a good thing in a macro sense and we should not forget that. We need to look to the future and make the best decisions that can be made for the future decades of Watertown and the region.

    • YES! YES! YES! 1000%!!!! Thanks for explaining the obvoous once again! IT does not seem to get through to people who “disagree” with the numbers. It is a shame that it must be explained over and over because while people like big bad HAW, consulants, city workers and the average joe who cant buy here are having to expalin this, nothing get built. NOTHING.
      Instead the author uses plausible deniablity tactics and not real skepticism. I have been skeptical ever since she compared AHMA to AEI. So now I am skeptical if Dan, the man referenced in her letter, was “chilly.” Maybe he was. Maybe there was a reason. I am skeptical about the woman calling her friend a bleep, bleep. Maybe she did. Maybe there was a reason. And the inside track line?? So there is no one on the coucil who the author voted for? No one? Really? Not all the votes at coucnil are 9-0 all the time. The STR vote was 6-3, and I think the author agreed with the 6. SO maybe she has an inside track. Maybe she doesn’t. The point is, this kind of letter belong on a facebook gorup where they bash the councilors and call other neighbors bleep bleeps . And then peope wonder why no one wants to run for council or vote or join a board.
      The bigger point is this letter gives no soltuions to the housing crisis. It doesn’t say let’s do this and this and this. IT deosn’t say why we should do this or this or this. All it does is criticze people offering solutions. The letter is a smear campaign. Who cares? Sorry feathers got ruffled but sometimes you need to put yor ego away and solve the problem. it is called being an adult. If you are not willing ot solve the problem, then be honest about it. Because every time somoneo writes a facebook like letter, what they are really saying is I don’t see a housing problem, and maybe if there is then I don’t really care. And that’s fine. For me, I am waiting to hear back about the survey and the final design. I know I won’t get my 10000 units but whatever the consultat finally come up with, will be 110 percent better that what we have now. Right now with have a ZERO. The current situation is rock bottom that needs massive improvement. People with solutions, be bold! Ignore the smear campaign because “fortune favors the bold”.

      • I think what you are pointing to is the idea of plurality. It is a great point which often gets overlooked especially at city council/official city meetings. I have a lot more appreciation for the council and boards because of it. I would never run for anything for various reasons, some of which you stated, but also because I don’t have the temperment, I feel more comfortable leading from the trenches and I’d miss a lot of liberties and freedoms (as in free from and free to). I think a lot of people might feel the same way. However, being in the public is a role too, and people can use it to complain, act with agency and/or provide support. All these functions are valid but there is a time sow and a time to reap. Crisis demand boldness, thanks for reminding me of that adage.

    • I really appreciate your comment. Rinse and repeat: Perhaps your disagreement with people on policy is really your dissatisfaction with basic economics.

  5. It is simply ignorant to say that “this groups idea that more housing will lead to lower cost housing is flawed.” I wonder if folks who say that have actually tried to purchase or rent a home during the past 5 years (I have). Because of scarcity, people who *need* a place to live are being forced to bid up prices to secure one, and this increases market prices overall. The ONLY solution to our current housing crisis is to significantly increase the number of units of available housing; a few hundred units won’t do it. And I’ve heard no other solutions in the various discussions here which would actually decrease housing prices (complaining about greed won’t do it).

    • Kathi,
      Are rents in Boston or NY any cheaper because there is more housing there?
      No. Will building higher allow more people to live in an area yes as noted by the Boston example? Yes but it will not lead to more affordability. It just brings a different type of neighborhoods. In fact it could lead eventually to less neighborly citizens as people will be packaged into little boxes. Boxes without much character or inspiration for individuality. I prefer to live in houses. Houses with yards for play, gardening or solitude with nature.
      I’m not saying that these designs for Watertown Sq. are bad, I’m just saying that we should not go over board by the greedy idea that more is somehow better.

      • Mr Aitcheson – I think you missed the point. The absolute quantity of housing means nothing by itself. Home prices are determined by the BALANCE between supply of homes and demand for homes. If there is more demand than supply, people who need housing will bid up prices until they find it. Home prices won’t decline significantly until we have many thousands more units on the market in Massachusetts (it is a regional problem).

        Note that no one is proposing to build 5-story buildings in neighborhoods of single and two-family homes, only on major streets like Arsenal St., Main St. and the central district of Watertown Square.

        Watertown should have housing units at all prices. Some in this city seem to resent people who have invested in their education, developed necessary skills and made smart choices to get high-paying jobs. They’re “legitimate” residents of Watertown, too.

  6. Why is this author complaining about lawful eviction of renters if their lease expired? It is false and manipulative to suggest that people who support housing would say that evictions (including the temporary removal of the Post Office branch) equate to a “success.” The property is owned by someone else and the owner has a right to proceed with construction of the 104 Main. St. project. The “success” will come once the building is open to renters!

    • The Post office branch is represented by the FEDs and if they don’t want to pay then they will not pay. They want cheap rent too. I get it. But to blame the developer is assbackwards. The post office has its own agenda. They have closed a lot of post offices accross the country and it has nothing to do with the rent being charged or developers. Don’t assign blame to Paul when Peter is the one doing somethign. It make no sense.

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