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Report: Tight Boston Housing Market Is Squeezing Out Renters — Especially Working Families

This article is more than 8 years old.

An annual report finds that the cost of housing in Greater Boston is soaring as the area simultaneously faces a serious housing shortage.

The report's most troubling finding is that there's a major mismatch between the type of housing available and what's needed in the city.

Issued Wednesday morning by The Boston Foundation and prepared by the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, the 12th annual Greater Boston housing report card says this mismatch is having major consequences, including a loss of housing options for working families.

According to the report, the tight housing market in Boston means millennials and working families are fighting for the same rental properties.

Northeastern professor Barry Bluestone, lead author of the report, joins Morning Edition to discuss his group's findings.

To hear the full interview, click on the audio player above.


On rising rents, stagnant incomes in Boston:

Barry Bluestone: "Housing prices continue to rise — rent's rising even faster. And family incomes, particularly for renters, have been relatively stagnant. So with no growth in income and rising rents, more and more families, in particular renters, are paying 30 percent or more of their income. In fact, more than a quarter of all renters in Greater Boston are spending more than half of their gross income just to pay rent. That's an all-time record.

"The reason for it, of course, is that we've just not built enough housing — in particular rental housing."

On millennials' housing woes:

Bluestone: "The other thing we found in our report is was that we have finally, successfully, kept lots of young people, 20- to 34-year-old millennials are staying here, but they're doubling up, tripling up and quadrupling before they form their own families, and they're basically renting the housing stock that was built for working families — the classic triple-decker, the duplex. As a result, working families are being squeezed in the housing market more than ever.

"We have a large number of graduate students, a huge number of residents, medical residents and interns. They're excited about being in Boston — that's the good news, but what they're finding they can't afford the housing here if they try and do that on their own."

Working families' struggle to find housing in Boston:

Bluestone: "Between 2000 and 2010, there's been an increase in the number of very wealthy households — those of five times the poverty rate or more. There's actually been an increase in the number of families of low incomes, who are served by our public housing or subsidized housing, but we're losing everybody in-between."

This segment aired on March 18, 2015.


Bob Oakes Senior Correspondent
Bob Oakes was a senior correspondent in the WBUR newsroom, a role he took on in 2021 after nearly three decades hosting WBUR's Morning Edition.



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