Report: Massachusetts needs another 108,000 homes

Massachusetts needs another 108,000 housing units to meet the demand, according to a new national study, which ranks Massachusetts 11th among states in its housing underproduction.

Up for Growth, a Washington, DC-based housing nonprofit whose members include housing developers and economic development organizations, released a report Thursday that examines housing underproduction nationwide.

The problem is national. The New York Times highlighted the report’s finding that housing underproduction is no longer a coastal phenomenon but is spreading across middle America.

Chris Herbert, managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, recently testified at a congressional hearing that a shortage of new housing, particularly modest-cost housing, has led to record-high prices nationwide. He said land-use regulations limit the ability to build dense housing, and recent supply chain issues have extended construction timelines and raised the cost of materials. He said that already, before the pandemic hit, the large millennial generation was moving into their own homes. Remote work during the pandemic exacerbated the demand for larger, single-family homes.

The lack of housing remains particularly pronounced in coastal urban areas.

California fares the worst, needing nearly 1 million new homes, according to the Up for Growth study. But Massachusetts’s problem is quickly growing, with the need for new homes doubling from 54,000 in 2012 to 108,000 in 2019. During the same time, the shortage of homes nationally increased from 1.6 million to 3.8 million, according to the report.

The Boston-Cambridge-Newton area ranked 14th nationally for the metropolitan area with the highest need for housing, with an undersupply of 77,000 units, the report found.

“Up for Growth’s Housing Underproduction in the US report shows that the country is facing a housing supply and affordability crisis – making it next to impossible for families in Massachusetts and around the country to buy their first homes or keep up with rising rent,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a statement distributed by Up for Growth. Warren said there is a need to build and rehabilitate more affordable housing and eliminate restrictive zoning practices.

Massachusetts loosened zoning requirements in 2021 when Gov. Charlie Baker signed an economic development bill that let communities adopt zoning changes that promote housing development by a simple majority rather than a two-thirds vote. The governor has made increasing housing production a priority.

But Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, said the biggest problem is many municipalities don’t want dense housing. He pointed to communities that have been pushing back against the housing law’s requirement that communities near MBTA stations allow more multi-family homes. 

Vasil compared the current situation to the end of World War II, when GIs returning from war sought homes to start families, leading to the building of small, dense homes in places where people could easily commute to work. Many of those houses have been torn down and replaced by bigger houses. “We need more density, tighter communities, less sprawl,” Vasil said. “We’ve come full circle. This is what we should be producing but we don’t.”

Resistance to new housing in Massachusetts, particular more modest-priced starter homes, is nothing new. CommonWealth spotlighted the problem 20 years ago this spring. 

Recent media headlines regularly highlight the consequences of undersupply. GBH reported this week that Greater Boston renters are offering to pay rents that are higher than the list price to secure a rental. That will impact individual budgets in a market where the Up for Growth report found nearly half of renters are cost-burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. The Boston Globe reported this week that long-time renters on Cape Cod are being priced off the popular vacation peninsula.

There are homebuyers forced to waive home inspections, and those who bid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the asking price.

The latest report from real estate data firm The Warren Group found that the median price for a single-family home sold in May 2022 was $590,000, a 39 percent increase since May 2020. “The balance between supply and demand has been way out of sync for some time, and this is the manifestation of that imbalance,” said Warren Group CEO Tim Warren.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

T progress on safety directives: The MBTA says it is making progress in addressing the four safety directives issued by the Federal Transit Administration, but GM Steve Poftak cautioned that reduced subway service levels are likely to remain in place until Labor Day and possibly longer because of staffing issues in the operations control center. 

– The T is also starting to address speed restrictions, which are implemented when rail conditions are subpar. The T replaced a 500-foot section of the Orange Line between Tufts and Back Bay stations, allowing train speeds to increase from 10 to 25 miles per hour and saving one minute of travel time. Once other track is repaired along that stretch, speed levels are expected to rise to 40 miles per hour. Read more.

Senate passes low-income fare proposal: The Senate passed an infrastructure bill with an amendment ordering the MBTA to implement a free or reduced fare program for low-income riders. The amendment’s fate will now be decided as House and Senate members resolve differences between the bills passed by the two branches. Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a similar measure previously because it lacked a funding source to replace the lost fare revenue. Read more.

Rush job: House and Senate budget negotiators announced a deal but didn’t release the spending plan. They said the two branches are expected to vote on the budget Monday, which would allow enough time for lawmakers to override any gubernatorial vetoes. Massachusetts is the last state in the country to pass a state budget for this fiscal year. Read more.

OPINION

Disastrous folly: Mary Booth of the Partnership for Policy Integrity and Kathryn Eiseman of the Pipeline Awareness Network call for an end to  Mass. subsidies for biomass, saying burning trees to produce power is disastrous folly. Read more.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

The House approves a wide-ranging $4.2 billion economic development plan, which includes $1 billion in tax relief. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

West Nile virus is detected in a mosquito in Massachusetts for the first time this year. (Associated Press)

Massachusetts confirms 18 new cases of monkeypox. (MassLive)

Some health care experts warn that the recent acquisition of Atrius Health by the national physician organization Optum Care could drive up costs without improving quality. (Boston Globe

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

First lady Jill Biden calls for an assault weapons ban at a Massachusetts fundraiser, which kicked off the first of her three days in Massachusetts. (MassLive)

Sen. Ed Markey calls out the Amazon-owned electronic doorbell company Ring for giving videos to the police without consent of the device owner. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

Donald Trump suggests he’s already made up his mind to run for president again; the only question is when to announce. (New York)

Worcester Mayor Joe Petty, who is running for state Senate, seeks a campaign finance investigation into his opponent Robyn Kennedy and a PAC supporting her. (Telegram & Gazette)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Trinity Financial and the Epiphany School in Dorchester are in a tussle over a property located next to the school. Trinity wants to develop affordable housing there and now Epiphany says it wants to do the same. (Dorchester Reporter)

EDUCATION

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and the head of the Boston Teachers Union announce a deal on a three-year contract that features the expansion of a special education program by allowing more high-needs students to learn alongside general education students. (WBUR)

Milton school superintendent James Jette was put on paid administrative leave after the town’s school committee learned he was arrested in May on a misdemeanor charge of domestic assault. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

The short-staffed MBTA is offering starting salaries of $103,000 and a $10,000 signing bonus for subway dispatchers. (Boston Herald

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The owners of a Salem power plant agree to a $43 million settlement with federal regulators, who allege that they withheld information about construction delays to obtain a federal payment. (Salem News)

After heavy rains, 879,000 gallons of untreated sewage flow into the Blackstone River. (Telegram & Gazette

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

US Sen. Tom Cotton, who led the opposition to Rachael Rollins’s confirmation as US attorney, is demanding an investigation into what he calls a “blatant violation” of federal law after Rollins attended a Democratic Party fundraiser yesterday afternoon at an Andover home with first lady Jill Biden. (Boston Herald

Two former maintenance workers at a Lawrence shelter sue the former shelter head, who is already under indictment for stealing shelter money. (Eagle-Tribune)

PASSINGS

Ivana Trump, the first wife of Donald Trump, died at 73. (NPR)