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The Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2002

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Authors: Ryan Allen, Barry Bluestone, Bonnie Heudorfer, and Gretchen Weismann

The first Greater Boston Housing Report Card was released in 2002 and is the result of collaboration between the Center for Urban and Regional Policy (now known as the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy) at Northeastern University, the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), and The Boston Foundation.

In September 2000, the Center for Urban and Regional Policy (CURP) at Northeastern University released A New Paradigm for Housing in Greater Boston. The report was developed in partnership with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, FleetBoston Financial, The Community Builders, Inc., and Housing Partners, Inc.

The report analyzed trends in housing prices and rents; identified the key economic, social, and political barriers to increased housing production and affordability; and offered more than 30 recommendations for overcoming these barriers.

Faced with a limited supply of existing housing, extremely low vacancy rates, and a decade of inadequate housing production, the New Paradigm report concluded that in the next 5 years an additional 36,000 housing units would need to be constructed in the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)—well over existing production levels—in order to help moderate future price and rent increases. That report was a clarion call for action in order to assure decent housing at affordable prices for all Greater Boston households.This report is the first assessment of the progress that has been made in meeting the goals outlined in the New Paradigm report. It looks not only at the 127 cities and towns in the Boston MSA, but also in the Greater Boston metropolitan region of 161 municipalities in the combined MSAs of Boston, Brockton, Lawrence, and Lowell.

Key Findings

Household Growth vs. New Housing

The number of households in the Greater Boston increased faster than the production of new housing. The result was a sharp decline in both rental and owner-occupied housing vacancies.

Rents, Home Prices, and Housing Affordability

In response to the imbalance between household growth and new housing production, rents and home prices rose sharply in the Greater Boston region over the past three years, further reducing housing affordability.

New Housing Production

Vacancy rates declined and rents and prices rose dramatically because new housing construction met only 53% of projected demand.

Public Spending on Housing

While there has been a modest increase in total state and federal funds for housing in the Commonwealth since 1995, the amount now being spent by the public sector is substantially less than the real spending levels of the 1980s.

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