Braintree population may rise 17 percent by 2030

By Robert Aicardi | Wicked Local Braintree | June 10, 2015

The population of Braintree is expected to keep going up and by 2030 could top 40,000, which would be 17 percent higher than it is today and 24 percent higher than it was in 2010. That was one of the conclusions reached by a 37-page “Envision Braintree” study based on a demographic profile and demographic projections published in March by Lauren Costello and Barry Bluestone of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. According to Costello and Bluestone, this projected population increase will occur even as household size declines and there will be a change in the types of housing Braintree residents will likely prefer. Bluestone, the founding director of the Dukakis Center and a professor of political economy at Northeastern, summarized the findings June 3 to an estimated audience of 50 people in the Cahill Auditorium of town hall, among them several members of the town council, the school committee and the planning board.

Following a rapid population increase between 1930 and 1980, when 36,337 people lived in Braintree, the 1990s was a decade of declining population, but between 2000 and 2010, Braintree’s population expanded at about twice the size of both Norfolk County and the state—approximately 6 percent. “Braintree is poised to continue to grow when other communities are quite stagnant,” Bluestone said. Mayor Joseph Sullivan, who hosted Bluestone’s presentation, said this was the first of three meetings about the town’s future that will take place this summer. What’s described as a “community conversation” with Sullivan and Police Chief Russell Jenkins is scheduled for June 11 at 7 p.m. in the Cahill Auditorium, with topics including the operations of the police department and how to better serve residents, community policing, the relationship between police and the schools, and social media. A meeting about education will be held at a time to be determined. “Braintree is an extremely appealing community that will continue to attract a diverse population of new households while many of its aging households will likely choose to remain in town even after they decide to retire,” the Costello-Bluestone profile concluded. “With its convenient transportation and good schools, Braintree remains a destination for younger families as well as baby boomers.”

Costello and Bluestone outlined what they believe Braintree will have to do in order to assure balanced growth. This involves a “steady increase” in housing production, including the continued construction of multi-unit apartment and condominium style buildings. In addition, the town will have to permit the development of accessory apartments in single-family homes that may have special appeal to younger millennials and retirees. Sullivan explained why he asked Bluestone, whom he has known for a number of years, to put together this profile. “From where I sit, we get so engaged in day-to-day operations that sometimes we need to be reflective and take a step back,” the mayor said. “That’s what we’re doing. I wouldn’t say this is a road map. It’s an assessment. I think this offers some thought provoking ideas.”
Bluestone, who has never lived in Braintree, called it “an amazingly dynamic community.”

“I’ve been in a lot of communities where people say ‘I don’t want change,’ but my reaction to that is that whether you want change is irrelevant,” he said. “It is going to change. The question is how you will use this change to make your community even stronger.” Bluestone was born in Detroit and attended the University of Michigan, where he received his Ph.D. in economics in 1974. “Barry has agreed to come back, whether that will be six months from now or a year from now,” Sullivan said. “I think that will be very helpful.”

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