High housing costs still pricing many out

By Paul McMorrow

The housing bust has done little to ease the pressure housing costs exert on working families in eastern Massachusetts, a new report from the Urban Land Institute says.

The report, written by real estate consultants Robert Charles Lesser & Company, compared housing prices to Bay State employment data, and found a 25,000-unit shortage of workforce housing within reasonable commuting distances to jobs centers. Within the next ten years, the ULI report said, that total will swell by another 10,000 units.

“Home prices are down significantly, but there’s still a tremendous lack of affordable and workforce housing in the area,” says Charles Hewlett, a managing director at Robert Charles Lesser & Company. Hewlett unveiled the report today at a ULI forum on Chapter 40B, the affordable housing construction statute that is the target of a repeal petition on November’s ballot.

Despite a recent 18 percent peak-to-trough dive in home prices, Hewlett said, prices are still up 43 percent over the past ten years. That means homebuyers making the area median income have very limited choices for for-sale housing within the 495 belt; families making 60 to 80 percent of area median income are almost entirely priced out of the eastern half of the state. The ULI report says more than 600,000 households in the Boston metro area earn between 60 percent and 100 percent of AMI.

Hewlett said that the high costs of land, construction and permitting put new construction out of reach for “the vast majority” of workforce families, meaning the state won’t be able to build its way out of the current 25,000-unit housing shortage “without progressive policies.”

To read the full report, click here.