Lawrence facing housing crisis, report says
Property values low, rents high, new construction lags
A NEW REPORT suggests Lawrence is facing a major housing crisis, with property values low, rents high, and new construction failing to keep pace with population increases.
The study, funded by six public and private organizations, was designed to give policymakers in Lawrence a sense of key housing trends. On almost every front, the trends are not encouraging. Here are the key findings:
Only 494 housing units were built in Lawrence between 1980 and 2012, an increase of 1.9 percent. During that same time period, the population of the city grew 22 percent. With population growth outstripping housing supply, one would expect housing prices to rise. Yet property values have remained low while rents have risen. The median sales price of Lawrence single-family homes is $188,000. The comparable number for condos is $75,000 and $200,500 for two-family homes. A typical rent is $1,100 a month. That rent amount would be affordable for a family with a median household income of $50,800, but the median income of Lawrence households is $30,509. Two-fifths of Lawrence households spend more than half their income on housing.
The housing stock in Lawrence is old and often rundown. The study said more than half of Lawrence’s housing was built before World War II and 83 percent was built prior to 1980. Because of the low property values, the study said few homeowners have sufficient equity in their homes to make significant repairs.
As grim as the picture is for Lawrence, the study said the city is not unique. “Lawrence, like much of the rest of Massachusetts, is experiencing an affordable housing crisis that shows little sign of abating,” the study said. It noted 21,000 Massachusetts residents are homeless, a 40 percent increase over the past seven years. The study also said 25 percent of the state’s renters pay more than half of their income for housing.