Just about everyone agrees that New Bedford has a housing crisis, but no one has all the answers on how to solve it. The New Bedford Economic Development Council recently produced a plan that some say at least points the region in the right direction.

"Housing For All: Forward-Looking Strategies for a Growing New Bedford" was produced by a committee of EDC members and a representative of MassInc. It follows last year's call-to-action on housing by Mayor Jon Mitchell, but the EDC's report has a little more meat on the bones.

Joining Townsquare Sunday to talk about the report were two EDC members who had a hand in compiling it: Vice Chair Tony Sapienza and Paul Chasse, who is also president of the Realtors Association of Southeastern Massachusetts.

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The key finding in the EDC study is that in order to curb the housing crisis, Greater New Bedford cities and towns must build 8,700 new housing units by 2030. That's a tall order, indeed.

"By 2030, you are going to see population growth," Sapienza said. "We haven't been building housing for the past 10 years. The report makes it really clear that the city has 3,000 new families, and only 1,000 new dwelling units. Do we think we can build 8,700 units by 2030? Probably not, but we absolutely must try."

Both Sapienza and Chasse agree surrounding towns must do their part to build more housing as well.

"If the towns were able to loosen up the zoning a little bit, you could build more condominiums side-by-side, still attractive, still beautiful properties, that wouldn't change the character of the town all that much," Sapienza said. "Projects like that would benefit the region as a whole."

The EDC report also addresses the impact of the commuter rail train coming to the region, and whether there is enough land in New Bedford to build substantially more housing.

The EDC is hosting a regional Housing Symposium on April 30 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum to further hash out the problem.

"There is no one silver bullet for this," Chasse said. "This problem didn't develop overnight, and we're not going to solve it in a day, but we have confidence we can put a dent in those numbers moving forward."

Townsquare Sunday is a weekly community affairs program airing Sundays on WBSM.

If you would like your organization featured on Townsquare Sunday, please email the host at jim.phillips@townsquaremedia.com.

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