Is your community doing enough on housing?
The 2019 Greater Boston Housing Report Card that came out two weeks ago told a familiar story in a fresh way. This year’s data continues to show our region has high housing costs, lagging housing production, and persistent segregation. One of the report’s new features is an online tool to see how your community is doing on housing
Let’s start with the familiar:
The 147 communities in the Greater Boston region form the fourth most expensive rental market in the country. This is not just a Boston area issue—nearly half of the renters in Essex, Plymouth, and Norfolk counties are spending too much of their income on housing.
Housing production has failed to keep pace with rapid job growth. While the visible construction cranes suggest an unprecedented boom, we produced 13,000 new homes in Greater Boston in 2017, which is still below the 2005 level and way below production in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
The gap between perception and reality partly comes from this: more than half of the region’s multifamily production in the last 5 years was concentrated in Boston, Cambridge, Everett and Watertown.
While the region is becoming more diverse as a whole, black and Latino households are highly concentrated in just ten communities. We remain one of the most segregated of the nation’s large metro areas.
Now for what’s happening in your community.
The report card’s authors—the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, the Massachusetts Housing Partnership and the UMass Donahue Institute—took the bold step of creating an online municipal assessment tool. You can look at your city or town and see how it stacks up in five key areas: housing production, racial composition, adoption of best housing practices, housing stock diversity, and affordability.
Let’s play with this tool a little.
Take Arlington, which had a big town meeting battle in April over accessory dwelling units (defeated with “only” 62% in favor) and up-zoning the Massachusetts Avenue corridor (withdrawn). Its housing production is about half of its regional share, it has adopted 4 of 6 best practices, 5.6% of its housing stock is deed-restricted “affordable,” its median rent is $1,593 and median home price is $730,000. About 22% of its population is of color.
Arlington, which is 40 minutes by public transit from booming Kendall Square and 45 minutes from downtown Boston, is slightly below average on housing.
Or take Littleton. It is producing housing much beyond its regional share, adopted all 6 best practices and about 13% of its homes are officially “affordable.” But its housing stock is low on rentals (about 16%) and it has and continues to produce more single-family than multi-family homes. Its median rental is only $975 and its median home price is $435,000. About 11% of its population is of color.
Littleton is well above average on some housing metrics—production, best practices and affordability—but way below on housing and racial diversity. It is also 55 minutes by car from downtown Boston.
Check out this tool-- it may you give you some ideas for how your community can get better grades next report card. To download the full report or just use the online municipal assessment tool, go to sponsor Boston Foundation’s webpage.