Raising the alarm on housing

Tom O’Brien, one of the Boston-area’s leading developers, is raising the alarm about the region’s housing crisis.

“One of the most important statistics that I’ve focused on in the last six months is that over the last five years we’ve created 300,000 jobs inside Route 128,” he says. “During that same period of time, we only created 110,000 new units of housing.”

O’Brien said the imbalance between jobs and housing has been growing year after year for a long time. Now, he says, the situation is reaching dangerous levels.

“We’re building a building in downtown Boston right now and the cost of that is $675,000 per unit to build that tower,” he says of Bulfinch Crossing, the mixed-used project arising from the Government Center Garage. And O’Brien points out that the $675,000 price was locked in about two years ago, so the cost today would be even more.

“It’s a big issue for us in the city right now. I know that people are anxious because housing costs so much,” he said on the CommonWealth Codcast. ”If you’re a renter, you’re being asked to pay more and more of your income to pay rent. The problem right now is it’s very expensive to build these units. Right now, and this may be a little bit shocking to you guys, from our company’s perspective new high-rise rental housing in Boston does not pencil out. It does not underwrite because it’s so expensive. It’s really hard to see where the housing production process is going to go from here.”