Real estate key driver of economy

Industry has several legislative priorities

WITHOUT A DOUBT, this last year has been hard on every industry, and the real estate market was not immune to the economic hardships and the uncertainty brought on by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.

We are finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, with about one-third of the country now inoculated and many doses on the way for millions of people newly eligible for the vaccine. The people of Massachusetts are preparing to emerge from the pandemic. While the demand for single family homes has outpaced supply leading to a busy spring market, not every segment of the real estate industry was so lucky.

COVID-19 continues to be a large, disruptive force across the commercial real estate industry. Hotel, retail, office, multifamily, and industrial property were all faced with market uncertainty.

There have been several challenges we expected that came to pass: struggling property owners and struggling tenants. In a show of collective spirit, government and stakeholders came together to keep people in their homes and support owners through the worst of the pandemic. When faced with adversity, our leaders made the right decisions quickly and we witnessed how, as a community, we are able to pull together during difficult times.

This is an industry that helps drive our economy. We cannot maintain its momentum by only addressing one set of problems while overlooking others.

Speaking from a numbers perspective, it would be important to note that apartments, and their residents, contribute $3.4 trillion to the US economy annually, and support 17.5 million jobs.  The economic impact of office building operations in Massachusetts is over $5 billion and 32,354 jobs.

A significant portion of that exists within Massachusetts, particularly in the Greater Boston area. In fact, Boston apartments and their residents contribute $54.8 billion to the metro economy annually, and support 228,900 jobs.  For office buildings, it’s $2.8 billion and 27,647 jobs.

There are jobs created as a direct result of this industry, through construction work, including framers, electricians, engineers, and architects. And there are jobs created as an indirect result, through administrative work, such as leasing agents, building managers, and maintenance professionals. There are even more jobs that are created and supported by a workforce that has access to stable housing, which goes on to support local jobs and businesses.

While there are many issues and legislative actions to consider in order to keep balance within the economy, we believe it is critical that the Legislature take a common-sense approach. That is why it is our goal to back measures that will move our industry forward. This includes legislation that promotes housing and development growth, housing affordability, and expedited multifamily housing construction.

It includes legislation that will streamline and reform onerous zoning laws, which will allow cities and towns the ability to make development decisions that work best for the communities they serve.

We are also supporting legislation to provide more education for our members on energy efficiency and fair housing

Important legislative proposals such as these are vital to ensuring we can remove barriers to housing in Massachusetts, that we are supporting our local workforce, businesses, and residents, and that we can continue to build and strengthen our real estate industry.

The road back from this pandemic will be a long one. Our industry shares the goals of Gov. Charlie Baker and the Legislature to ensure Massachusetts not only continues to thrive, but can upend some of the inequities that have too long plagued our economy.

We are eager to be partners in that effort to ensure the housing marketplace, long a key driver of our economy, continues to thrive and help those on every rung of the economic ladder have a safe place to live, work and raise their families.

Meet the Author

Karen Fish-Will

Principal and CEO, Peabody Properties
Together, and well informed, we can make it there.

Karen Fish-Will is principal & chief executive officer at Peabody Properties and serves on the board of directors and the government affairs committee of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board