Blacks, Latinos migrating from Boston to Gateway Cities

Seek lower-cost housing, often in unstable neighborhoods, report says

BLACKS AND LATINOS in search of lower-cost housing are migrating from Boston to the state’s 26 Gateway Cities, according to mortgage origination data analyzed by MassINC researchers.

In 2007, according to the MassINC research brief, 27 percent of the state’s black home buyers purchased in Boston. But by 2017 that percentage had fallen to 11 percent, a 16-point drop. Over that same time period, the share of blacks purchasing homes in Gateway Cities jumped by 15 points, rising from 38 to 53 percent.

In real numbers, the number of blacks purchasing homes in Boston dropped from 670 in 2007 to 346 in 2017. The Gateway City that saw the biggest increase in black homebuyers over the 10-year period was Brockton, where 263 blacks bought homes in 2007 and 601 bought homes in 2017.

Latinos followed a somewhat similar path. While the share of Latino home buyers purchasing in Boston fell by 5 percentage points, it grew by 12 points to 60 percent in Gateway Cities.

In real numbers, mortgage originations for Latino buyers in Boston fell from 376 in 2007 to 228 in 2017. Latino homebuyers, according to 2017 data, purchased in Lynn (407), Lawrence, (460), and Springfield (479).

The MassINC researchers, Ben Forman and Abraham Reiss, say their research indicates many of the black and Latino homebuyers in Gateway Cities are purchasing properties in unstable neighborhoods. According to the report, one out of four black buyers and nearly 30 percent of Latino buyers purchased homes between 2010 and 2017 in sections of Gateway Cities where poverty and long-term vacancy rates were high.

The exodus to Gateway Cities was set in motion in the early 2000s, when predatory lenders targeted minority neighborhoods in Boston. The foreclosure crisis that ensued disproportionately impacted black and Latino residents who could not keep up with their housing payments and saw their main asset taken away.

When Boston’s economy recovered, the city was flooded with new employees earning high wages who bid up the cost of housing. The mortgage origination analysis indicates black and Latino residents left Boston to pursue cheaper housing in less expensive areas, like Lawrence, Worcester, Lowell, and New Bedford.  

A property rehabilitated through receivership in New Bedford

 Forman and Reiss said state policymakers should invest in these areas to buttress these struggling neighborhoods and the property investments of their residents. They point to pass success with a Neighborhood Stabilization Loan Fund and former attorney general Martha Coakley’s Abandoned Housing Initiative, which helped renovate more than 750 units of housing, the majority of which were located in a dozen Gateway cities. The Abandoned Housing Initiative used settlements from predatory lenders to help court-appointed receivers address unsafe property conditions.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

“COVID-19 and its aftermath will undoubtedly exert considerable stress on already fragile Gateway City real estate markets,” wrote Forman and Reiss.

“Proactive efforts to stabilize Gateway City neighborhoods is commonsense economic policy given the increasing body of evidence that neighborhood conditions have a formative effect on individual well-being and strongly influence whether children born into poor families’ experience upward mobility.”

MassINC is the corporate parent of CommonWealth magazine; the magazine and the research arm operate at arms-length from each other.