Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030

George_Apley

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Houston builds enough housing. Markets work.
Thanks for this complete non-sequitur. As said above, the Boston and Houston metro-areas are not analogous, nor are their housing markets. And not only because of the differential between MA and TX municipal zoning ordinances.
 

Proposition Joe

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I'm pretty tired of people pointing to Houston as some sort of example of a housing market that works because although units may be cheaper there, Houston has definitely not developed in an ideal way. There is too much sprawl and Houston's environmental situation has hit vulnerable people who are stuck in those flood plains that the 'free market' allowed people to build on.

If Boston looked like Houston it would be awful. If you want a vibrant city with cheap housing you need public housing. That means constructing lots of new housing, finding revenue sources to better maintain housing, expanding government owned housing to middle income brackets through social housing, and buying/seizing currently privately owned housing for public use.
 

jklo

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The displacement problem cannot be waved away and needs a political solution. The out-of-balance demand in the northeast and west coast needs to be corrected as well.
Well, if you aren't going to build, something is going to have to give. And in those situations people with more money tend to win out, even if they are poor themselves.

Short term I think they are going to have to "encourage" higher occupancy utilization of units, even to groups that might not want it and lift/raise whatever limits there are. Is it going to cause problems? Absolutely. But the alternative might be worse.
 

George_Apley

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Well, if you aren't going to build, something is going to have to give. And in those situations people with more money tend to win out, even if they are poor themselves.

Short term I think they are going to have to "encourage" higher occupancy utilization of units, even to groups that might not want it and lift/raise whatever limits there are. Is it going to cause problems? Absolutely. But the alternative might be worse.
Who says we aren't going to build? We are building. A lot. The problem - for now - is that new, market rate construction is not affordable to the median renter or buyer, and thus far, demand is still strong enough that older stock is staying sky-high as well. So the "trickle-down" concept isn't working.

The concern is that if there's a slump in occupancy rates for the new construction, they'll just stop building, and few will benefit from the increased supply in terms of price.

They're building the kind of urban housing that's in demand for the Millennial/Gen Z urbanite (1-2 Br for single/married + childless), but only a small percentage of them can actually afford those units, so many of them are still living in old-stock family-style housing in multi-roommate scenarios.

The elephant in the room for the Boston-metro is that the suburbs are highly resistant to pulling their weight wrt multi-family housing construction. Not without reason either, given the way our school districts are funded as fiefdoms for the property owners. Obviously there are lots of other NIMBY reasons towns don't want more multi-family housing, but protecting their school budget is the biggest. Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville can't (politically, financially, spatially, pick an adverb) absorb all the new housing demand on their own.

Sorry this is a kind of rambling, disconnected post.
 

TallIsGood

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Thanks for this complete non-sequitur. As said above, the Boston and Houston metro-areas are not analogous, nor are their housing markets. And not only because of the differential between MA and TX municipal zoning ordinances.
This is my point - zoning is one of the reasons and that’s regulatory created restriction.
 

TallIsGood

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We are building but we aren’t building enough. Boston (region wide) has underbuilt for too long. Zoning restrictions, linkage payments, community benefits, union and prevailing wage requirements, low income inclusionary requirements all increase the cost of housing and make the marginal cost of a unit higher. In addition the long regulatory approval process increases the cost of housing production. We impose restrictions and increased costs on housing production and then wonder why we have a problem??
 

fattony

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Who says we aren't going to build? We are building. A lot. The problem - for now - is that new, market rate construction is not affordable to the median renter or buyer, and thus far, demand is still strong enough that older stock is staying sky-high as well. So the "trickle-down" concept isn't working.

The concern is that if there's a slump in occupancy rates for the new construction, they'll just stop building, and few will benefit from the increased supply in terms of price.
I think there is a contradiction buried in here. You cannot just have a slump in demand for high cost units without a slump in demand for all units. Even with all the market distortions and no matter how much the word “luxury” is bandied about, there is only one housing market. Nobody wants an expensive home, they just want a home and they want to pay the lowest price they can for the features they want.

There is a lower bound on the price of new construction units set by the actual cost of construction. Obviously nobody will build new units at a loss. So the only actual pitfall is to end up with a scenario where the only new units than CAN be built are too expensive for ANYONE in the market. As long as new units are absorbed, then so-called “trickle down” is working. You can’t just say that it isn’t working when it clearly is.

The question was never “will prices fall compared to some point in the past?” The question has always been “are prices lower for everyone than they would be if we didn’t build the new units” which I don’t think anyone thinks is “no.” You are asking too much if you want to get something at one price if someone else is willing to pay more. That’s just never ever ever ever going to happen.
 

fattony

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We are building but we aren’t building enough. Boston (region wide) has underbuilt for too long. Zoning restrictions, linkage payments, community benefits, union and prevailing wage requirements, low income inclusionary requirements all increase the cost of housing and make the marginal cost of a unit higher. In addition the long regulatory approval process increases the cost of housing production. We impose restrictions and increased costs on housing production and then wonder why we have a problem??
This is unquestionably the true source of the high cost of new housing. It is actually expensive to produce. Coupled with the high salaries around here, the restrictions guarantee homes are only produced at the highest price points.
 

Jouhou

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So, I was just going through the 2018 census data for housing permitted.


...We're still building wayyyyyy too little housing. Mass is carrying New England for the most part and they're still not building enough...

Maine and New Hampshire are doing a pathetic job as well.

Rhode island too, but I'm not sure if the demand is as insane there.

WTF new england. You can't just build a handful of housing and call it good.
 

TheMagicMan

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So, I was just going through the 2018 census data for housing permitted.


...We're still building wayyyyyy too little housing. Mass is carrying New England for the most part and they're still not building enough...

Maine and New Hampshire are doing a pathetic job as well.

Rhode island too, but I'm not sure if the demand is as insane there.

WTF new england. You can't just build a handful of housing and call it good.

Why not build a High speed bullet train from Providence, New Bedford, cape areas into N/S Station. This could solve the housing crisis. :wink:

Are there proposals out there?
 

Rover

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So, I was just going through the 2018 census data for housing permitted.


...We're still building wayyyyyy too little housing. Mass is carrying New England for the most part and they're still not building enough...

Maine and New Hampshire are doing a pathetic job as well.

Rhode island too, but I'm not sure if the demand is as insane there.

WTF new england. You can't just build a handful of housing and call it good.
Most of those states are stagnant or depopulating. That includes Maine, VT, CT and RI. Outside of Boston's CSA what are the economically vibrant areas? Portland, ME maybe. The gold coast of CT near NYC.

I'm not sure why NH growth has slowed to less than Mass given the cheaper and more available land but I suspect its due to the ball busting commute.
 

jklo

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I'm not sure why NH growth has slowed to less than Mass given the cheaper and more available land but I suspect its due to the ball busting commute.
Definitely the commute. And plenty of people moved there too from Mass in 2000-2008, but that was back when they could work in 495 or even Burlington/Bedford/Woburn/etc. Now that the jobs are moving back into Cambridge/Boston, it's a really ugly commute.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Why not build a High speed bullet train from Providence, New Bedford, cape areas into N/S Station. This could solve the housing crisis. :wink:

Are there proposals out there?
At no point in the last 4.5 billion years of Earth's history has there ever been a way to get between Providence, New Bedford, and the Cape by contiguous rail...much less somehow hit all 3 in a line with Boston and do so at "bullet train" speeds.


Can we try this with a little more coherence than "I CAN TYPING!", please?
 

fattony

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... in 2000-2008, but that was back when they could work in 495 or even Burlington/Bedford/Woburn/etc. Now that the jobs are moving back into Cambridge/Boston, it's a really ugly commute.
That seems like a bit of an overstatement. No more than a handful of jobs have relocated into the city and away from the 495 and 128 corridors. Those are still heavy employment areas.
 

Jouhou

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Ummm. Everyone seems to be assuming jobs only happen in Boston. Here in Portsmouth and across the river in Kittery there's more jobs than people. It's not a phenomenon exclusive to Boston.

They've been screaming "housing crisis!" here too but unlike Mass no one seems to even be trying to do anything about it. Actually I know people at work who have been moving to northern mass because they can't find an apartment at a sane rental rate here.

The housing shortage is national, and it's particularly severe in New England as a whole.

In NH though it's a little different I think though. There's no personal income tax but I'm pretty sure there's a corporate income tax and the state has no financial incentive to encourage more housing to be built. It's only being discussed now because it's hurting the state economy- businesses can't grow without people. People won't move here to work if there's no housing. They're just now realizing that.
 

millerm277

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Ummm. Everyone seems to be assuming jobs only happen in Boston. Here in Portsmouth and across the river in Kittery there's more jobs than people. It's not a phenomenon exclusive to Boston.

They've been screaming "housing crisis!" here too but unlike Mass no one seems to even be trying to do anything about it. Actually I know people at work who have been moving to northern mass because they can't find an apartment at a sane rental rate here.

The housing shortage is national, and it's particularly severe in New England as a whole.

In NH though it's a little different I think though. There's no personal income tax but I'm pretty sure there's a corporate income tax and the state has no financial incentive to encourage more housing to be built. It's only being discussed now because it's hurting the state economy- businesses can't grow without people. People won't move here to work if there's no housing. They're just now realizing that.
Yeah, I'm currently out in the Upper Valley area of VT/NH, and the housing crunch is consistently cited as the #1 problem with getting people to move to the area or stay. Rents may not be Boston level, but relative to salaries they're steep and hard to justify.

I'll also mention that budgets are funded pretty much entirely on property tax revenue in NH, and schools are huge portion of where that money goes.

As such, many residents will oppose any multi-family or otherwise "cheap" housing construction, because they believe it's likely to cost more in increased school budgets (more kids) than it brings in in property taxes to cover it.
 

fattony

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Yeah, I'm currently out in the Upper Valley area of VT/NH, and the housing crunch is consistently cited as the #1 problem with getting people to move to the area or stay. Rents may not be Boston level, but relative to salaries they're steep and hard to justify.

I'll also mention that budgets are funded pretty much entirely on property tax revenue in NH, and schools are huge portion of where that money goes.

As such, many residents will oppose any multi-family or otherwise "cheap" housing construction, because they believe it's likely to cost more in increased school budgets (more kids) than it brings in in property taxes to cover it.
That doesn’t make a lot of sense because it is typical to set different tax rates for different property types. If they think the taxes need to be higher on multi family to make it “worth it” then they are free to do exactly that.

The truth is, current homeowners think their property values will fall or stagnate if more housing is built. Period. I got mine, everyone else can go screw.
 

FitchburgLine

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Census figures for July 2018 muni pop are out. Boston estimated at 694k, Cambridge at 119k (around 1,700 residents away from the all-time high in 1950).
 

HenryAlan

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Census figures for July 2018 muni pop are out. Boston estimated at 694k, Cambridge at 119k (around 1,700 residents away from the all-time high in 1950).
So I wonder if the city still thinks that housing 700,000 by 2030 is the right target. Boston has grown significantly faster than the city's planning estimates anticipated. I think we all know that the population is already above 700,000, 11 months after this census estimate, so what does that mean for housing plans?
 

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