Hey, there! Log in / Register

Greater Boston becoming preserve of the very rich and the very poor, report says

A Boston Foundation report out today paints a grim picture of a housing market with prices spiraling out of control - in which condo prices are reaching parity with single-family home prices, triple deckers are being snapped up by investors and families are struggling to stay afloat.

What has really exploded in price are the iconic "triple-deckers" in Greater Boston. Built for the most part between 1870 and 1920 when massive immigration tripled the city’s population, the median price of a single unit in a triple-decker was $244,172 in 2009. By mid-2015, the median sales price had shot up to $477,057 - an increase of 95 percent in the span of just six years. The demand for units in such buildings - driven in large part by undergraduate and graduate students, medical interns and residents and other young professionals who can pair up, triple up, and quadruple up to pay mushrooming rents - has made such housing an investment bonanza. Rental unit vacancy rates have fallen to 2.6 percent in Greater Boston, less than half the 5.5 percent that research shows is needed to stabilize rents so they rise no faster than normal inflation. Landlords compete aggressively to purchase such buildings and in doing so have pushed prices up to astounding levels.

The report says 25% of Boston-area renters now pay more than 50% of their monthly income just for housing.

Note that between 2010 and 2014, the total number of permits issued in the region was 40,735, far below the more than 67,000 new households added to the region during that same period. However, only 15,000 units of housing were actually built.

What's to blame? Land prices, especially in the suburbs, have rocketed, in part due to snob zoning, or as the report puts it, "a strong focus on preserving 'community character.'" Construction costs have gone up as well, although not as much as land costs.

What if we do nothing? Eventually our economy suffers as people who can't afford to live here go elsewhere for jobs.

The only slight glimmer of hope? Single-family homes could start coming on the market as baby boomers move away or die.

The report calls for looking at innovative ways to build housing - such as using modular construction of components built in factories - increasing state funding on affordable housing and convincing towns to donate land for new housing, and somehow, in some amazing stroke of incredible salesmanship, convincing suburban towns to allow the sort of denser multi-family development that would help families stay and attract the young workers the economy will need to survive.

Neighborhoods: 
Topics: 
Free tagging: 

Ad:

Comments

is it too late for me to not finish high school and have a few kids i can't afford?

up
Voting closed 0

Can 40B be strengthened or expanded, do you think?

up
Voting closed 0

In Boston you're either to poor to afford but not poor enough to qualify.

up
Voting closed 0

Please call your state legislators and beg support for H.1111, An Act relative to housing production, and H.1080, An Act to address equal access to housing through local zoning. See info here http://www.chapa.org/sites/default/files/Testimony_H.1111_Brenda%20Cleme...

Don't know who your elected officials are? Check here http://www.wheredoivotema.com/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx

up
Voting closed 0

I would add that in addition to land prices and construction costs, the failure to build new public transit is a significant driver of housing costs. It has been decades since the T was meaningfully extended. To pick just one example, if the Green Line Extension were in place, there would be additional housing options in Somerville and Medford for people who work in Boston.

It is frequently pointed out that extending the T would be expensive. In the past, T lines were presumably built for free by friendly giants and no one ever had to pay taxes. That was a sweet deal.

up
Voting closed 0

T access is huge. Every new T stop has a ripple effect with the walkable distances, plus a new station would get new connecting routes w busses which expands that reach.... Even ONLY expanding more bus lines would open up housing options at this point.

up
Voting closed 0

Somerville, at least, is getting PLENTY expensive even without the green line extension - it's already a housing option for lots of people in Boston - who can still afford it.

That said, the T should absolutely be funded enough to expand.

up
Voting closed 0

People snatched up properties along the green line extension over a decade ago knowing it would balloon land values in Somerville and Medford. Current values in those corridors are already factoring it in quite a bit.

up
Voting closed 0

People snatched up properties along the green line extension over a decade ago knowing it would balloon land values in Somerville and Medford. Current values in those corridors are already factoring it in quite a bit.

up
Voting closed 0

...the worst thing is people with lower incomes will have longer commutes. OH NO!

Here are some positives:

1. lower crime.
2. people that bought houses can cash out and retire (these are working class people).
3. better schools
4. better restaurants
5. more intelligent residents (i know, sounds elitist but it is true). which means higher paying jobs.
6. force public transit to improve (more ppl will be commuting from farther away).
7. ...and the best one: Less cranky townies that don't evolve.

up
Voting closed 0

the very poor? It's not becoming a city of rich people, it's becoming a city of rich people and the very poor that the rich subsidize to live here. Middle income people are not the one's committing crimes, generally either... so uh, crime might be down, but it's not going away.

up
Voting closed 0

But why do the poor and the unemployed need to live in the city? So a working class family who pays taxes is subsidizing a deadbeat to live in an area they can't even afford.

Ya that make perfect scenes.

up
Voting closed 0

One of the interesting things (at least for me) about this report is that it looks at the entire metropolitan area, not just the city of Boston. The entire area is becoming Manhattanized, in the sense of it becoming too expensive for virtually everybody, leaving room only for the very rich and the very poor who are eligible for housing projects.

Let's pretend you're one of those people who just don't give a damn about poor people, would be just as happy as if you never had to hear about them again (not saying you are, I have no clue who you are). In this 1% utopia, where are your baristas, your maids, your nannies, your garbage collectors, your checkout people, your firefighters going to come from? They don't need to live downtown? Only rich people like me deserve the finer things in life? Let 'em live in Dorchester or Everett! Only now they can't, because all the triple deckers in Dorchester and Everett have been converted into $1M condos with granite countertops.

Strictly from a purely heartless, mercenary, utilitarian vantage, the sort that so many anonymous commenters here seem to hold (or maybe it's just one really bitter old curmudgeon who can type really fast), if the entire region is too expensive, your lower classes are finally going to just pack up their stuff and move to another state. And then the 1% will have nobody to draw their drinks for them.

up
Voting closed 0

IMAGE(http://www.angryflower.com/atlass.gif)

up
Voting closed 0

Lawrence? Lowell?

up
Voting closed 0

adam, youve tried to use this logic before
you say Boston (and eventually surrounding communities) are becoming 'Manhattanized'. and if that happens where will all the workers come from. Well, where do all the workers come from in Manhattan? Manhattan does not have a problem with staffing Starbucks, or getting hotels cleaned, or having the garbage picked up.
Lets take fire fighters. its well known that historically NYFD fire fighters live in Rockaway. thats over 20 miles from midtown manhattan. or a commute by subway of over an hour. so yes, baristas, and maids, and garbage collectors will have to commute. Its a shame anybody has to have a long commute, by why do middle class people have a right to a shorter commute than people with more money?
Its reality. The only anomaly here is that people in the US with money have chosen to commute for the last 50 years.

up
Voting closed 0

Are you for real?

Its a shame anybody has to have a long commute, by why do middle class people have a right to a shorter commute than people with more money?

Then tell me. why do the rich have a right to a shorter commute than the much larger middle class?

(see how that works.. that question can be used against you)

up
Voting closed 0

I do see how that works. Its called capitalism. Supply and demand.
Capitalism may not be a great system, but it is a better system than anything else man has come up with so far in the last few thousand years.

up
Voting closed 0

who actually runs a business--say a retail store or a restaurant--and ask them where their employees live and whether they've been having any trouble recently finding people who can afford to live nearby OR a car so they can commute in town to wash dishes, clean office buildings, pour coffee, etc.

up
Voting closed 0

....Boston would see restaurants closing.

instead we see more opening up.

up
Voting closed 0

Plenty of restaurants close down every single month. You're just not paying attention to them. There's a local blog that keeps track of all of this on a monthly basis, in fact.

What you're also missing on is that these restaurants would rather have consistent employees than see higher turnover rates because simply getting into work is difficult.

up
Voting closed 0

Because what I see is if you are rich enough, you pay lawmakers to create laws that make you richer. Rich companies need tax breaks to bribe them to make jobs. Don't like taxes? Not only can you pay politician to keep them low, but you underfund the IRS to the point where you can pretend that the taxes are systemically incompetent and corrupt.

Calling the US economic system capitalist is like saying Stalinist Russia was communist. It's fake.

up
Voting closed 0

Not the anon, but I would think that's actually kind of easy to answer - we live in a capitalist economy and the rich have more money and thus can afford to live in more expensive/desirably places. If you change our economy to something else, then maybe the majority wins - but even our government is set as a democratic republic to limit the majority in an attempt to prevent mobocracy.

up
Voting closed 0

Bad career to use as a comparison. Firefighters generally live and work at their firehouse for a week on and a week off, or other long, 24 hour minimum shifts. Cuts down on that commute a lot.

up
Voting closed 0

Also Massapequa and Wantagh, and assorted other South Shore of Long Island towns, a good 90 minute commute to Manhattan and worse for the outerboroughs.

up
Voting closed 0

The last time I was in Manhattan I had a conversation with a bartender and a few younger customers sitting near me. The bartender lives in Trenton, NJ (just outside Philadelphia). She took a train into midtown and the subway to lower Manhattan. 1.5 hours each way. But, the job paid more than anything she could get in Philly or NJ.

The young patrons were tech workers. The manager among them just was able to sublet an apartment in a lesser desirable area in Manhattan and the others lived in Jersey City. They all said the goal was to live in Manhattan but even making nearly six figures they couldn't afford it, even sharing rent. None of these people have car expenses mind you.

I'm not saying this is a problem. What it actually leads to is that the cities before more expensive for services so service workers can get paid more so the city can compete against the suburbs and exurbs where the service workers live for their labor. When you think about it, actually it shows why an elevated minimum wage in the city is unnecessary--wages will adjust to the labor demand.

Just an observation based on one person's small world.

up
Voting closed 0

and they are very affordable (for now at least). Everett is what Somerville was 15 years ago. Get in while you can!

https://www.coldwellbankerhomes.com/ma/everett/kvc-17_2/?groupId=0&sortI...

up
Voting closed 0

Everett has long commute times by bus, and people with economic limitations won't commute into the city by car with $20/day parking.

Know what else? The schools suck because the citizens won't oust a crooked school committee or superintendent that spends special ed money on homecoming parties and uses school workers to install school-bought AC units in his home.

up
Voting closed 0

A very large number of people in the current generation are living single well into adulthood and are not having children. The schools are irrelevant to them.

up
Voting closed 0

Fritz Lang devised a solution for this problem nearly 90 years ago!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0NzALRJifI

Is it too late to start building the New Tower of Babel in Midtown?

up
Voting closed 0

I think the bigger problem is that rich people desire a walkable neighborhood, but poor people need walk-ability to survive. Its not whether some who is poor is willing to move to find an affordable home, it is dangerous for them in obvious and subtle ways.

If you don't have a car and transit costs of $2-3 are difficult for you, then you need to be able to walk to the health center, grocery store and school.

There are lot of older apartment buildings in suburbs and smaller cities around the country that located next to highways and designed for commuters. These places are becoming more affordable, but there are no services in walking distance. There is a highway outside of Atlanta where people are being hit by cars as they walk by highways not safe to have pedestrians nearby.

up
Voting closed 0

You just described Manhattan.

up
Voting closed 0

not offended, just confused

up
Voting closed 0

ever try begging for change in the suburbs? Can't even clear $20k in tax -free dollars doin that. The city is where the begging scene is AT.

up
Voting closed 0

How ya been?

up
Voting closed 0

You have heard of the "working poor" right?

It would be akin to me calling all anon posters "assholes".

up
Voting closed 0

Poor is a relative term. You can have a perfectly fine job making 40k a year but try to find a decent 1br that you can afford on that income. Your essentially poor in that respect.

up
Voting closed 0

A lot of us poor "deadbeats" are disabled, and live here to be near the good hospitals and other social services.

Other poor "deadbeats" probably have friends and family here, and want to maintain their social networks. Maybe they can't afford a car and stay here for public transportation. Maybe they're poor and putting themselves through school. Maybe they want access to cultural events, museums, schools, libraries. Maybe they just enjoy the rhythm of living in a city.

Why does anyone need to live here?

up
Voting closed 0

The best thing about it is that the horrendous negative consequences of Boston's housing situation don't affect SoBo-Yuppie directly, or that of anyone he knows, except a few troglodytic "townies." I mean, sure, maybe a few disabled people and single-parent families will get swept away, but you gotta break a few other people's eggs to make an omelette tailored to SoBo-Yuppie's specifications.

Plus the riffraff bring crime to Boston! Clearly the best way to address that is by making them desperate about their rent!

up
Voting closed 0

More cunts like yourself

up
Voting closed 0

NOT better schools. See: Cambridge. If middle class families (like my parents) can't buy in the city anymore, the public schools will start to become only poor kids (not a bad thing on its own, but probably comes with parents who have less free time to be involved in school stuff) and all the rich kids will go to private schools. It's already happening.

up
Voting closed 0

That ship sailed a long time ago, unless you include BLA & BL.

up
Voting closed 0

And some of those charters that are funded with public money.

It's possibly hard for folks who remember the 1970s to fathom, but many people who move into the city actually want their kids to go to a public school. There was even that time a group of parents offered to buy some building in the Back Bay and give it to the city for use as a school (only to get turned down by Menino).

up
Voting closed 0

At the exam/charter level sure (basically High School). The 1-6 in the BPS is still terrible and still causes people to leave (if they can't afford private/parochial). BPS kindegarden is pretty good though.

up
Voting closed 0

There are good BPS elementary schools.

up
Voting closed 0

You're the definition of a rich snob....I see your comments on every gentrification-related post and you seem to be the only person who wants Boston's identity to virtually disappear into a "strictly-yuppie" city. Move out to the suburbs already because you're clearly not a true Bostonian.

up
Voting closed 0

the problem is that folks who are working (and notice the word "working", very important), at, as you say, "lower incomes" but not making six figure salaries (or enough to afford the average cost of a two bedroom apartment in Boston, $2,600 a month) can't afford to live and work in the city or even near the city. Or, to give another example, the days when I could live, in Boston, within walking distance to BU and afford a simple studio in line with my salary are going and gone. The issue is that working folks, like myself, have to keep moving out and out to afford housing and that, in my opinion, is wrong as well as not beneficial for our society in the long run.

up
Voting closed 0

Our national housing policy is an exercise in contradictions. On one hand, we pay lip service to affordable housing. On the other hand, we massively distort the market via the mortgage deduction and the capital gains write-off for real estate,* both of which tend to inflate the price of housing. Throw in exclusionary zoning and it's a recipe for housing shortages.

* As a beneficiary of said market distortions, I'll be damned if anyone takes them away

up
Voting closed 0

The mortgage interest deduction is certainly a distortion. The theoretical economist in me says that it should be eliminated. The practical economist (and realpoliticker) in me realizes that unless it is phased out over a very long (i.e., mortgage length) period of time, eliminating it would cause a housing crisis that would make the subprime thing look easy to handle. Nearly everyone who bought a house with a mortgage in (at least) the last 10 years would be immediately plunged underwater for a good long time.

[Sidenote: Apropos a comment I made on another thread (about a small generation being a dangerous place to be), it does make me a little nervous as a Gen Xer. I can envision an unholy alliance (in the form of aligned interests, not actual conspiracy) between Boomers who have already cleaned up on the sale of the big suburban houses now wanting more tax revenue (generated by the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction) to shore up medicare/SS and the so-called "Millennials" who want the price of housing to come down so that they can get on the ladder.]

Exclusionary zoning is certainly an issue, but I think it is very much less so than your other point....

Lack of acceptable/usable transit. There is plenty of good and relatively inexpensive EXISTING housing stock in many smaller cities in and around Boston, but there is just no way to get to or from said housing to the areas where the jobs are in a realistic amount of time. 90-120 minute commutes each way are just not feasible for the overwhelming majority of the population. As many others have said, we might have a housing problem, but a very big part of it is a transportation problem.

up
Voting closed 0

There probably needs to be a limit on the mortgage deduction. There's no need to subsidize the full deduction for multi-million dollar homes or second homes. Especially when the mortgage deduction costs taxpayers 4x or more the amount they spend on affordable and low-income housing programs.

http://www.citylab.com/housing/2015/04/the-us-spends-far-more-on-homeown...

up
Voting closed 0

There already is a limit and has been for a long time. The mortgage interest deduction has been limited to total mortgages of no more that $1M for nearly thirty years. Argue that the deduction should be more limited or abolished, but don't pontificate when you don't even know what the rules actually are.

--gpm

up
Voting closed 0

Thanks for the info, though your condescending tone is unnecessary. I'm not trying to pontificate, I'm trying to learn things on the fly, when they get brought up.

I still don't think it's defensible to allow for mortgage interest deduction on second homes.

up
Voting closed 0

Just the fact that a person owns a 2nd property isn't enough. I know a lot of people that own their parents homes, or an apartment where their kid attends college. pick a fair number to tax. Maybe a million is too high. But I can't knock people for front loading their expenses and turn them into investments. Income properties are different. This would be a better place to make changes.

and for the record I don't memorize the tax code either.

up
Voting closed 0

Want more housing for the middle class? Upzone, especially in transit rich and/or mixed use areas. And, of course, by increasing the amount of transit rich and/or mixed use areas, you create more places where you can upzone.

As more units are built, prices will cool a bit.

Want more housing for families? Allow development of microapartments with no parking -- and watch as the 20-somethings decide they've had enough of their 3 roommates and move into their own 600 square foot pad. For every three or four microapartments built, you'll "free up" one more apartment suited for a family.

Want more housing for families? Work with the universities to build more student housing. Every student living on university housing is a student not living in a market-rate apartment.

Want more housing for families? Build it on the Blue Line. It's the subway least crowded, and there isn't the density of higher ed on the north side of the Boston Main Channel, so there's less direct competition with college kids.

If BRA can figure out a way to allow developers to build less parking in exchange for building more middle class units, the median housing price will stabilize a bit.

up
Voting closed 0

Microapartments only work if the price for the little unit is equivalent (or, ideally, since we WANT people to move into them, less) than your 1 bedroom's worth of rent. The ones that were being proposed by the water were like 80-100% of the cost of a whole triple decker floor. Which, sure, you have to share with roomates, but at least there's more square footage.

up
Voting closed 0

A floor in a triple decker and a new waterfront apartment are both fine and reasonable places to live. They're not the same though -- the triple decker has more space, but it doesn't have the view. It has old interesting architecture, cranky radiators, a little garden, and a six block walk to the bus stop. The microunit has high end but tiny appliances, is conveniently located but doesn't allow for car ownership. Etc.

It's a numbers game. If microapartments get built, it results in less pressure on other forms of housing because some potential renters/owners shop in both markets, ultimately choosing one and thereby not choosing the other.

up
Voting closed 0

If these microapartments were actually affordable for the majority of millenials working in this metro, and not the small share working in Kendall Sq and Fort Point, then we'd move from triple deckers en masse.

I honestly don't care about all of these luxury amenities like a coffee bar or a pool or giant game rooms that developers keep trying to throw at us. Just build simple studios that are relatively close to transit and see how quickly they'll get snatched off the market. I love my roommate, but she and I have joked that we'd be perfect neighbors -- if we could afford it.

up
Voting closed 0

What the hell are you talking about?

move into their own 600 square foot pad.

My 550sq ft place requires, at current market prices, a $100,000+ downpayment to make the 20% for a mortgage. And it is not in the best shape. The same unit would have required a $25,000 downpayment 20 years ago.

600sq ft is a luxury sized place for a 20 something on anything near a average salary.

up
Voting closed 0

Also, the microapartments being built in this city average at about 350 sq.ft. 600 sq.ft is indeed a luxury.

up
Voting closed 0

600 sq ft is bigger than most studios - definitely not a micro apartment.

up
Voting closed 0

DUH! Glad they had to pay for a study to come up with this conclusion. Aaaaand what is going to be done about it? Not much.......It works out great for the people in power and people with money, so who really cares? Only the people being displaced, apparently. Politicians love to talk about the "housing crisis", but no drastic measures are being taken. A crisis calls for drastic measures. Duh. I love Boston and work my butt off to be able to afford to live here, but I know I will not have the energy to do that forever. I'm already pretty much planning to be out in a couple years because rent keeps going up, pay stays pretty stagnant, and it's all but impossible for a single person to save up 20% down payment unless you live with your parents or something.

up
Voting closed 0

Stop getting Starbucks every day.

up
Voting closed 0

Sure, that $1640/yr is really going to put a dent in a down payment.

Just think, after 40 years of forgoing Starbucks, you can put a down payment on micro studio in South Boston at the nice old age of 60!

up
Voting closed 0

Two lattes a day is $3650. $150 worth of partying/boozing every weekend is $7800. That's a down payment on a $300K condo in less than five years if you invest that money instead of flushing it down the drain.

up
Voting closed 0

Starbucks, I said that's not an issue nor possible as to the reason people can't afford housing.

How much other spending should we include to stuff the strawman that poor people are poor because they're not thrifty?

up
Voting closed 0

I read the posts, I never read anyone mention anything about poor people being poor due to indulgences.
What I'm reading, if you're trying to save for a down payment (20%) - it's not impossible for many people. Budgeting, not spending on things that aren't a necessity, etc... An example being Starbucks would be one of those things in life that aren't really necessary.

This sensitivity to criticism is really tiresome. And talk about strawmen arguments!

up
Voting closed 0

Every little bit counts. When did $1600 a year become something to scoff at?

Do something to reduce your cable/internet bill and your cell bill and toss in the electric bill too and that downpayment isn't hard to manage at all.

up
Voting closed 0

It's not FAIR that some people can afford lattes everyday and I can't!

up
Voting closed 0

Starbucks was not mentioned in the original response whatsoever. But good job making stuff up! Such vivid imaginations!

up
Voting closed 0

It's irrelevent what expensive coffee you drink every morning. The important thing is the attitude of the person who replied. There's nothing impossible about saving for a down payment.

up
Voting closed 0

It's impossible for some. Be realistic and recognize that not everyone is on the same playing field here. I'm 31 years old living in Melrose (because you know what? When I moved here 10 years ago, apartments really were dirt cheap -- MUCH cheaper than in Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, etc.), currently being priced out because of the exact situation the OP describes. I've had a steady job throughout that decade, have had average raises, have put myself through additional schooling. I do not own a car, ride my (7 year old) bike to the T every morning, and my winter coat is about 5 years old. I recently purchased my first new pair of sneakers in 2 years ($50 since you're keeping tabs). I am typing this on a crappy, years old laptop. I do not own a smartphone, nor do I subscribe to cable. I do not drink or party excessively (see previous statements re: working and going to school at the same time). I very rarely eat out. Likewise, I certainly do not purchase my coffee at Starbucks, Dunks, or any other commercial establishment.
I currently have roughly $600 to my name, despite being paid today. This includes my pretty wimpy savings account. Please tell me again how my attitude is keeping me poor, and how easy it is to save?
*FWIW: I will be relocating to less expensive housing, which will extend my already 1.5 hour daily commute. Alla y'all are right -- no one has the
right to a short commute. Therefore, I expect to hear your personal reports of > 1 hour commutes after doing it for a decade. Your attitude might just change a little, don't you think?
** FWIW #2: will be enrolling in another certification program within a year, to continue higher education in hopes of making more money. No money sucks, and maybe I'll be 40 by the time I can even so much as fathom owning a house, but you know what? I'm working towards it. Onward and upward.

up
Voting closed 0

You're doing it wrong then. I'm two years older than you and also started a fairly crappy job with craptacular raises and infrequent promotions about 11 years ago. Suffered three years of slumming it up with roommates and living fairly frugally (though definitely not just on bread and water) so I could invest and save up for a condo down payment, and now have at least $350K to my name between my investments, my retirement account and equity in my condo. Still working the same crappy job that probably pays less than some entry-level jobs at better companies around here, mind you - I'm sure I would have been closer to a million had I not been so damn lazy. And, like I said, I'm just an average dude of average abilities, with a BS degree from a fairly average school, working at a company that pays well below average.

up
Voting closed 0

You got lucky to be born at a time when this was still possible.

In the last several years, it has become nearly impossible, unless your parents die.

up
Voting closed 0

So there's no more good growth stocks? No more 401k company matches? No more cheap shared apartments? No more cheap neighborhoods and towns that will gentrify and get much more expensive over the next few years? All we have now is a guy with a gun that shows up every Friday night and forces you to spend your entire paycheck on booze, and pistol-whips you any time you even think about saving some of that money or making a 401k contribution, amirite?

up
Voting closed 0

So there's no more good growth stocks?

Yes, 2008. Ask people who planned to retire three years ago about what happened to their "growth stocks".

up
Voting closed 0

Was how many years ago? Where was Dow then, and where is it now?

up
Voting closed 0

Are you looking to buy your first place? You only need a down payment of 3.5% with a FHA loan.

https://fhagovernmentloans.org/FHA%20Loan%20Programs/FHA%20First%20Time%...

up
Voting closed 0

good luck with all that.

I have never seen in my lifetime the kind of socioeconomic stratification we have today. Yet oddly, the hardcore left in this country is primarily concerned with 'race', skin color, and transgender issues. I don't get it. The master plan seems to be to incite, provoke, a complete societal, political, economic, collapse.

up
Voting closed 0

While we still have many race and gender issues to solve, the "left" has been overwhelmingly focused on economic issues -- especially income inequality -- since the recession hit. Really not sure how you missed all of that through three presidential election cycles.

up
Voting closed 0

Just screaming about how evil rich people are doesn't do squat.

Trust me, no one missed it.

up
Voting closed 0

Not just screaming, but proposing legislation to tax capital gains as ordinary income, opposing cuts to the basic safety net such as food stamps, and this: http://wwlp.com/2015/08/05/mass-millionaire-income-tax-proposal/

up
Voting closed 0

Ya, no.

up
Voting closed 0

Thank you for your non-response response.

up
Voting closed 0

But only if the money really is spent on education and infrastructure, not on more handouts to buy votes come next election.

up
Voting closed 0

i think the gamechanging solution is investing heavily in a commuter rail network that's a lot faster (electrified), more reliable and services more cities and towns. a big reason young people like me are putting up with high rents is because, commute-wise, it's preferable to moving somewhere less expensive and then sitting in three hours of mind-numbing traffic every day.

if, say, you could get to the city from providence/portsmouth/lowell/nashua/worcester/fall river/new bedford in less than an hour, i think you would start to see those cities fortunes improve drastically while simultaneously taking the massive pressure off metro boston's housing market (not to mention improving the traffic situation here).

unfortunately, this sort of endeavor requires serious committment, serious vision and serious investment — which it doesn't seem like anyone on beacon hill is interested in.

up
Voting closed 0

Massachusetts has a number of historic cities with beautiful (or potentially beautiful) downtowns. Worcester, Springfield, and even Pittsfield could be different places if you could take a fast train across the state. They can do it in Europe and Asia; it can be done here.

up
Voting closed 0

I agree. Also, expanding transportation not only helps Boston, but also helps the Worcester, Lowell and Springfields of the state.

up
Voting closed 0

We'll have flying cars before fast trains.

up
Voting closed 0

We might have self-driving cars before fast trains. I wonder what that will do to commuting patterns. Get in car, open newspaper, fire up teakettle...

up
Voting closed 0

If they make automomous only lanes then it will probably become the fastest way to get anywhere.

up
Voting closed 0

n/t

up
Voting closed 0

Regular people need somewhere to live, too. Well-to-do/comfortable people can live basically wherever they want. You can "put up" with high rents. Nice to have that option, isn't it? Poor, working class, and lower middle class folks live where they can. I'm a little flummoxed by you including Portsmouth in the discussion since it's one of the nicest towns/cities in all of New England, but, you're probably new. "Changing those cities' fortunes" has all to do with outsiders getting "a bargain" on rents, and driving people with less money farther, and farther away from opportunity. Now, if you want to help the current residents with skills training, so that they can compete with you for a computer job in Cambridge/Boston or on the 128 belt, then that sounds like a good deal. Of course that won't happen. That never happens. Or at least it hasn't happened in the past.

up
Voting closed 0

I live in a town on 495. It's too late. It's already this way. The only construction is for new homes (minimum of $530k) or 1-2 BR condos (start at 300k)....The homes baby boomers live in go for $350-400k. So it's expensive for a family of 4-5 to live here if they want a 3 BR home with a yard to play in.

up
Voting closed 0

There are a number of factors that the Boston Foundation would never bring up in this all Democratic City (spoken as a Democratic)

1) Corruption/BRA/lack of zoning code/NIMBY. Because the City is old and has no real zoning code or rules and all sorts of odd size lots the politicians have pounced on this to make it a byzantine process to get a permit to build anything. What it means in reality is that you need to have a connected lawyer (See McDermott, Quilty & Miller, LLP) or politician or best of all a Mayor on your side to get things to 'slide through' the BRA and the ZBA. Campaign contributions help. (Look at who contributes to political campaigns: builders and lawyers. Not doctors and accountants) No legitimate businessman wants to have to do business that way. If the powers that be like you, you can slide by. If they don't they can throw regulations, community groups, etc. at you to delay or cancel your project. That is expense that has to be passed on.

2) Building costs and restrictions have gone up, up, up. The State Building Code has been revised and revised a number of times in the last 15 years or so. Energy codes have become stricter and stricter. Electrical and fire safety has become more and more expensive. One example: now you have to put GFI or arc fault breakers in on every circuit. This adds perhaps $600 to $1000 to the cost of a unit for no real reason (virtually every building built in the last 40 years has standard circuit breakers and there are not rashes of electrical fires every day. You can't build rooming houses any more.

3) Since the cost of just getting a permit and building to the basic code is so high, it is a tiny upgrade to go from linoleum countertops, rugs, and white appliances to granite, engineered hardwood and stainless steel and call your place 'luxury'. If it costs you $300,000 to build a unit, what is another $10K ???

Solutions:

1) Redo the zoning code for the city to allow many of the main arteries to have commercial on the first floor and 3, 4, 5 floors of housing above. Have the rest of the city defined so that builders can build as of right and everyone will have a fairly even idea of what can be built on a piece of vacant land or neighborhood. Design this zoning to allow easily for another 100,000 or so housing units.

2) Audit the BRA and the City! The BRA by their own admission own hundreds of properties, the City does as well. Both of them should put these properties up for sale so builders can build on them. (unless there is a long term plan or use for such properties such as a school or public transportation use

3) Organize the building department so that you are guaranteed turnaround times and hearings within a set amount of time. When you apply for a permit you should be given a definite date when it will be returned or reviewed by. You shouldn't need to call in a chit to move the process along.

up
Voting closed 0

Stop using ridiculously overpriced union labor and prices will go down - you can't build affordable housing when you have people getting paid $60+ per hour to put cement in a wheelbarrow. A crew of five at $60/hour working full time for three months is over $150K - and that's just labor, not including materials.

up
Voting closed 0

The "soft costs" associated with building exceed that working, taxpaying, union members wages. You need look no further than the design and engineering of some of these proposed residential developments. We have architects and builders looking to build housing in Boston neighborhoods that is equivalent to Boston waterfront development and blaming labor on the project costs. I call BS on you analysis.

up
Voting closed 0

It takes several months to build a small single-family house, let alone a multi-family structure. Factor in ridiculous union labor cost and it does make quite a difference, probably at least 15-20%.

up
Voting closed 0

You really need to re-read the Globe article. The issue is more with snob zoning and/or the general lack of build-able land.

up
Voting closed 0

Please explain how attacking the wages of people in the middle class is going to make it more possible for people in the middle class to buy housing.

Take your time, and remember to use logic and facts.

In this area, the cost of the land has controlled the price of things for some time. HOWEVER the extreme EROSION OF WAGES relative to the cost of housing is the reason people cannot find affordable housing. While the price of housing went up, wages stagnated.

Put simply so your mind can digest this: when wages kept pace with housing costs, this wasn't a problem. Now that wages have not kept pace with housing costs, we have a problem. Therefore ATTACKING WAGES IS NOT THE ANSWER.

up
Voting closed 0

Build more. Make the pie bigger. Have a look at a satellite map of the metro area. It's either all urban or all rural. Not like other metro areas in NY NJ PA MD where there's this happy middle ground called the suburb. There's huge tracts of land not but 10-20 miles from the city limits that are completely undeveloped.

You can build tens of thousands of new housing units out there, using both union and nonunion labor because there'll be enough work to go around.

Now you do need something resembling an adult in charge, because you also need to build roads and (electrified) rail lines to make these new developments a solution to the housing shortage instead of an additional traffic problem.

up
Voting closed 0

what union member is getting $60 an hour? I sure it would be cheap if you could pay construction workers minimum wage. I'm not sure the building would stay up.

up
Voting closed 0

I live in 'downtown' Roslindale and I agree this is happening as the crappy two and three family rentals on my street have largely been converted to condos. Or for example, there are two new build single families on Albano which went for $700k+. But then when I'm driving from Forrest Hills down Hyde Park Ave, there seem to be a lot of lower income rental properties or for example between American Legion and the cemetery. When I visit friends in Hyde Park, there seem to be plenty of non-flipped properties. So while this is an issue, it doesn't appear to be as total as being depicted here.

Btw, I don't claim any real knowledge of what rentals are going for in these neighborhoods but I do think there is a big difference between renting a place in the 'nice' part of JP or Roslindale vs. areas further off the core transportation lines.

up
Voting closed 0

Yes, there are still moderately priced homes (well, moderately priced for the Boston area) in the outer reaches of places like Roslindale, Hyde Park and Mattapan.

But you watch: That's going to change, especially along Washington Street and Hyde Park Avenue. It will come to Mattapan and the other side of Hyde Park if the state ever gets its act together and funds the subway-like service it promised along the Fairmount Line (the terminus of which is surround by acres and acres of industrial land that could be converted into housing, even though residents want it kept zoned as light industrial).

up
Voting closed 0

There are a lot of us that support the fairmount line as a corridor of residential and economic opportunity. The movement is growing too.

We need subway like service along the fairmount line NOW!

up
Voting closed 0

but there's lots of Hyde Park which isn't going to be gentrified anytime soon and even Roslindale.

I agree Hyde Park Ave and Washington will likely get built up over time but that's part of the solution, not the problem.

up
Voting closed 0

Lots of great comments here, but I wanted to emphasize that the lack of political will to change zoning and NIMBYism over any apartment building:
1) over 3-4 stories tall and
2) with reduced parking ratios
is the KEY to the issue. More key even than transit. Yes, there are plenty of lots to be redeveloped all over the city and region, including those near transit - however if only 3 units are built on each of them, you have not made any significant impact to the problem. WE NEED TO BUILD UP AND INCREASE DENSITY. Sorry, it might be scary, but it is the truth. Otherwise, this city will choke on its own prosperity.

The city/cities lack(s) the ability to step in and balance these needs with the desire of existing property owners to ride their real estate cash cows into the sunset. NIMBYism is a given. Does that mean the city should stop in its tracks and become a museum? There needs to be better zoning and established development processes to deal with this.

Regarding transit - yes, it's absolutely vital, but as others have said, areas well away from transit are also selling at record prices. The market has passed the tipping point where people who once wanted to live near the red line will now pay just as much or more for anything within the boundaries of, say, Somerville, or Cambridge, or Southie. Desperate times mean you trade a reasonable commute for a place you can afford.

Don't get me wrong, I love this place, but at this rate as a middle class professional I'm never buying a house here and so I am forced to look elsewhere in the country. This story will no doubt become common.

up
Voting closed 0

Boston has tried for so long to be the "Un-NYC" - low density, village-like feel. Now, ironically, it is approaching NYC costs with neither the amenities of a large city nor the diversified economy to back up its housing bubble. Time to become that world-class city we're always talking about and make some bold moves.... or sink into the dust as a "living museum" / overblown college campus.

up
Voting closed 0

The T should be leasing out every bit of land it owns around stations for mixed use development that includes a large housing component. This would create an additional revenue stream to fund improvements to the T and would add a lot of much needed housing to the region without adding a lot of additional car traffic or parking demand to our neighborhoods.

up
Voting closed 0

You're totally right. Unfortunately the T relies on those lots for easy revenue, and the neighborhoods still cry foul regarding parking even when something is built right next to a station. See recent developments proposed along the fairmont and many other examples...

up
Voting closed 0

New to the city (and country) so not very familiar with zoning, etc... but I would like a 1/2 rule that would allow residential buildings in a 1/2 mile radius from a T or CR stop to be as tall as the developer wants. It infuriates me to go around Central, in the middle of the fastest growing economical area in the city? state? country? and having 1-family houses all over the place, while people commute from who knows where to get there (Same thing along the OL south).

I actually love what is happening right now in the Fenway (Boylston st.) with huge buildings in the main street, while maintaining the small building, neighborly feeling in the back streets, and there are no T stops around!. That is the kind of development that should happen all around the city.

up
Voting closed 0

Fenway has the D & E lines within a 5-10 minute walk at Fenway/Kenmore/MFA/NEU, the #55 bus circling through the West Fens, several other cross town buses at Avenue Louis Pasteur/Park Drive, and the full service commuter rail station at Yawkey. It is well served by transit.

The neighborhood is also very anti creating new parking spaces in excess of the existing because it is understood that adding parking will only add to the already rush hour gridlocked streets. So essentially one of the few neighborhoods that understands they are in a city and want to make the city work.

Some of the highest walking and biking rates with lowest car ownership rates too,

up
Voting closed 0

and there are no T stops around!.

Fenway is bordered by 2 Green lines: E and D. Isn't the orange line is about 1 mile away?

up
Voting closed 0

This map shows the walking time of most locations on Boylston St in Fenway being over 6 minutes and less than 12 minutes. I would say the section closest to Fenway Park is over a half mile, other parts are closer.

http://doucettmaps.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Viewer/index.html?appid=b34dac64...

up
Voting closed 0

Thanks.

up
Voting closed 0

"New to the city (and country)"

The majority of population growth in this country is due to new arrivals. This is a huge part of what is contributing to rising housing costs.

"It infuriates me to go around Central, in the middle of the fastest growing economical area in the city? state? country? and having 1-family houses all over the place"

The houses were there first, and existing neighborhoods should not be changed just because the newest residents want cheaper housing. Maybe, you didn't mean exactly that, but the need for new housing does not mean existing neighborhoods should be removed.

up
Voting closed 0

It's not that neighborhoods "should be removed", it's that property owners should be allowed to develop and intensify their properties - add a story, tear down and rebuild to a triple decker, make a townhouse or a small apartment building, maybe with small commercial space. If they want to. Right now they're not allowed to, both because of direct regulation - height limits, unit limits - and indirectly - every unit is require to have a certain amount of off-street parking, which is expensive and takes a huge amount of square footage. Lift these all across the metro, this snob zoning, and small expansions and developments will be able to absorb a huge amount of the demand.

That doesn't mean no regulation. Maybe a good ordinance would be that a building either needs a certain setback on the side or needs to build on the property line with a party wall, and no inbetween.

up
Voting closed 0

The wife and I bought a small single family home in Hyde Park at the end of October 2009. Pretty much the absolute bottom of the real estate market. It's the crappiest house on a very nice block, and we've had to put in new appliances, a new boiler, hot water heater, windows, doors, and roof. Even needing all that work, we could barely scrape together a down payment and financing on a white collar, combined $120K+ annual salary. We are never going to move, and that's fine. We like it here, and we'll slowly update the house to modern standards. God help anyone in the same situation trying to find housing today.

up
Voting closed 0

First time home owners used to be able to get FHA loans with less than 3% down and a very small mortgage insurance payment. That insurance payment basically tripled when the Bush era packages expired (for good reason, it isn't Obama's fault that lenders and banks abused the system during the Bush years).

up
Voting closed 0

and got a fabulous 2 family in Everett!

up
Voting closed 0

When was this?

Also consider that many sellers won't wait for FHA approval when they have cash offers on the table.

up
Voting closed 0

Oh, yeah. The mortgage itself is significantly cheaper than our rent for a third floor 2 bedroom on the Watertown/Waltham line.

up
Voting closed 0

What boggles the mind is how Rhode Island has been singularly unable to capitalize on this. Yes, traffic is bad, but it's bad period. If you're going to sit in traffic for an hour no matter what, why not live in nice neighborhoods like Lincoln or Cumberland RI, right off the northern end of I-295, at one-tenth the cost of living in Boston? Or live closer to Providence and take the commuter rail/Amtrak into South Station? Yes the commuter rail has problems but you're on the Northeast Corridor here which tends to be a lot better than most of the other lines.

I seriously don't get it.

up
Voting closed 0

Check out the listings in Lincoln/Cumberland. They're just as expensive and property taxes in Lincoln are crazy high.

up
Voting closed 0

Because the mob runs Providence.

up
Voting closed 0

I don't want to jinx anything but this is the most thoughtful, informative, creative posts I've seen on any topic here in a long while.

up
Voting closed 0

Ban bike lanes! No off leash dogs! More space savers! Something incomprehensible about Adam hating Southie! Blerrrgh!!!!

up
Voting closed 0

I heard someone under 40 did something kinda unusual on it. How self-absorbed of them.

up
Voting closed 0

Expand transit and suddenly places that weren't practical to live in, become practical. If we had a train system that ran half as often as lines like the red and blue but they extended as far out as Lowell, Salem, Framingham, Walpole, etc., the problem would be solved; otherwise you just end up subsidizing housing endlessly. People have much less opposition to new train stations near their home than new housing.

up
Voting closed 0

Salem isn't particularly affordable anymore, and it's basically unrecognizable from a decade or two ago. Lowell's getting pretty damn close, too! This is a much larger problem...and very few people who have any pull in the decision making process have the slightest idea what an affordable apartment is. $1,300 for a 1BR in Salem is a steal! Are you shitting me?!

Massachusetts is a small state, and New England is a small region. Either build a Boston version of Co-Op City, or GTFO. Go live in Detroit, Cleveland, or some region where people are starving for residents. Spread the wealth around, dear Lord. Leave us alone!

up
Voting closed 0

Taxes have been going up pretty rapidly, so if you've owned several places outright since the 90s, I'm sure there's a huge quarterly cash crunch. No excuse not to pay, but maybe selling one or two off and restructuring your cash-flow is in order, slum-lords!

up
Voting closed 0

No one ever talks about it, but it's the education industrial complex that is fueling the huge income disparities in the city. Before and even during school, you can work retail or at a Starbucks or a restaurant and maybe make 25-45k a year, at best.

If you run the 30-60k/year education gauntlet, because you borrowed money, your parents were rich or you lucked out and got a scholarship of some kind, you can earn 65-90k/year.

If you double down on law school or B-school, starting salaries can be 145k/year at a big company.

And anyone who has run this gauntlet will tell you that you don't learn much in school, so the quality of a hard-working Starbucks employee and a new B-school graduate is all perception and then, eventually, experience does build.

But the fact that young people who want a career in Business, Law or Medicine are expected to shoulder 100s of thousands of dollars in debt for the privilege of working non-stop until their 40s is what is leading to the huge salary differentials and, of course, the huge affordability gap in city housing.

Someone wrote that poorer people NEED a walk-able city, whereas wealthier people just like it. Well kids who are 25-40 these days work 12 hour days, hence the move away from long commutes. They are paying a premium for the ability to socialize 3-5 hours per week during their child bearing years.

up
Voting closed 0

25-40 is not a kid.

what do you mean paying a premium for the ability to socialize 3-5 hours per week?

So I don't agree that poor people are poor because they are lazy and irresponsible. If our economy was truly capitalistic, it might be possible to say that everyone has a fair shot. What we have is a complicated crony-capitalism that allows rich people to influence to law, and bureaucratically challenged socialism that does nothing to level the playing field.

up
Voting closed 0

By paying a premium to socialize 3-5 hours, I mean that all those "lucky" rich people have jobs that are so out of whack with the rhythm of life (in order to pay off huge student loans) that they have zero time to spend with other humans between the age of 25-40, typically the years you meet a husband/wife or significant other.

They save 1.5 hours in commuting time per day by living in the city, and living in the city gives them access to bars, restaurants where they can socialize somewhat before sleeping 6 hours and heading right back to work.

I'm at the tail end of this type of lifestyle myself. It is 11:30 pm and I'm wrapping it up at work.

up
Voting closed 0

you meet someone when you are ready to be open to it. I am not saying this person isn't in a bar/restaurant 3.5 hours per week, but that's not how you'll figure it out. Enjoy your lifestyle because it's fun, not because you looking for the life you are supposed to have. you work this hard, be happy now. I think the hardest part about paying this premium, is that it is optional.

I think that the middle class,families that live in Boston used to be single people that fell in love with the city. If any city or suburb wants more middle class families, they need more housing for entry level workers that's affordable without subsidization.

up
Voting closed 0