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Boston Seeks 53,000 Housing Units By 2030

Phil Hall
Oct 09, 2014

In one of the most ambitious municipal housing expansion programs to be announced this year, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh issued a report that envisions the creation of 53,000 new housing units by 2030, with a special focus on supporting the residential needs of low- and moderate-income residents and seniors.

In the 140-page report, “Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030,” Mayor Walsh spelled out that Boston’s demographic growth—with a population of 709,000 estimated within 16 years—and commercial real estate expansion—with approximately 20 million square feet of new commercial and institutional floor space that either under construction or waiting construction—needs to be matched with a wider housing inventory that mirrors the financial needs of the majority of the city’s residents. Noting that seniors constitute Boston’s fastest-growing demographic, the report added that an aging population will throw the current housing environment out of alignment.

“The growth in the number of seniors in Boston means that fewer units will become available through turnover to working-age households, requiring construction of 17,400 units of workforce housing to replace those units that will be occupied by seniors,” the report said. “Taken together with the workforce household growth of 26,600, the total demand for workforce housing in 2030 is estimated be 44,000 units.”

Mayor Walsh made city-funded or -mandated housing production a core driving force in the new housing push.

“City resources will be used to create approximately 8,000 affordable units (both senior and workforce), while approximately 4,000 middle-income assisted units will be created via the Inclusionary Development Policy or in mixed-income developments,” the report continued. “The City also expects to see the creation of approximately 13,500 privately-produced middle-income units, which will include workforce housing in lower-priced areas, as well as units created for downsizing senior homeowners. The City is also anticipating that new dormitory construction will result in fewer students in off-campus housing, opening up approximately 5,000 additional workforce housing units formerly occupied by students.”

In encouraging non-municipal intervention in homeownership, the report pointed to economic and social issues that it claimed were limiting housing choices in today’s Boston.

“Today, a household with an income at the midpoint of middle class range ($80,000) can only afford the bottom 23 percent of the homeownership market in Boston, and is priced out of seven of Boston’s 15 neighborhoods,” the report said. “That same $80,000 income is currently enough to afford 51 percent of the rental market; however, rents are rising at five times the rate of income, making the rental market increasingly unaffordable as well. Compounding these challenges is an underlying production cost issue. While funds are available from the City, State and Federal government to subsidize affordable housing, and while the real estate market financially rewards builders who create higher-end housing, there are limited incentives to develop housing that is accessible to the middle class. The City will work with the development community to produce more of this housing, helping to lower the cost of production so that the market may respond.

“The City must also support the ability of all potential buyers to purchase a home in Boston,” the report continued. “Currently, non-White borrowers are less able to access the market. While 40 percent of Boston’s middle class is non-White, only 20 percent of mortgages went to non-White borrowers. To correct a widening homeownership gap within the middle class, we must better understand these issues, and work with our non-profit and lending partners to take meaningful action.”

Furthermore, the report promised that Boston’s housing will sport a greener hue.

“More than 20 percent of Boston’s carbon footprint comes from housing,” the report said. “Boston’s current Climate Action Plan calls for our housing stock to reduce emissions by approximately 100,000 metric tons of CO2e by 2020. We will be required to build housing that is more energy-efficient while we retrofit our existing housing stock.”

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