Boston is growing, and recent population estimates from the US Census Bureau indicate that the city’s growth is accelerating -- Boston is now gaining population twice as fast as the rest of the state. We must manage this growth to ensure that a bigger Boston is also a better Boston. We must plan for this growth, carefully balancing needed increases in density with open space and other amenities to ensure that quality of life in our neighborhoods remains high. Most importantly, we must ensure that this growth creates opportunities for people at all income levels.
-- Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030
By 2014, when Mayor Martin J. Walsh commissioned a new housing plan to guide Boston’s residential development, Boston had experienced three years of economic expansion where the population increase outpaced the growth of the city’s housing supply. The resulting housing shortage created significant upward pressure on prices.
In 2014, the City of Boston engaged the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to assess the city’s increasing population and to develop a housing production target that would not only accommodate growth, but also the new demands for housing types that would arise from Boston’s shifting demographics.
The resulting plan, produced by a cross-departmental City team and task force of external experts, recommended a target of 53,000 new units to rebalance the market and prevent future housing shortages through 2030.
Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030 aims to meet the need of Boston’s future by expanding the supply of new housing to catch up and keep up with growth, resulting in decreased pressures on rents and housing prices.
A key factor in the success of the plan will be to pull significant numbers of higher-wage households out of existing housing stock as they upgrade into the new units. We expect that when there are fewer higher-wage workers competing in the market for existing units, rents and prices will be kept in check by new vacancies in the stock.
How we’re doing: Results to date
Through Dec 31, 2016, 12,001 new units have been completed and another 7,237 units are in construction for a total of 19,238 new units.
- Another 21,865 units are in the permitting and development approval process for a total of 40,923 new units that are either built, in construction or active in the pipeline, representing 121 percent of the City’s target for this point in the plan.
- 2015 was the first year completions of housing units outpaced population growth. (3,785 units completed, compared with an estimated population growth requirement of 2,650 units).
- The new production now appears to be having the desired effect on the real estate market, easing the rent burden on existing housing stock. (See next section.)
Year Two Housing Production Action
|TOTAL IN PROCESS
How we’re doing: Rental market trends
As 12,000+ newly built, higher-priced rental units came onto the market, list prices for older 0-3 bedroom units* decreased by 4% from 2015 to 2016. The sharpest decreases were in 0 and 1-bedroom units, the most common unit sizes in newly built buildings. Two-bedroom units saw modest decreases; three-bedroom units remained stable.
Citywide Rents in Older Housing Stock by Unit Type
*Rents in these tables are reported as weighted averages for 0, 1, 2, 3 bedroom units that correct for over- and under-sampling errors.
Rents in older units decreased or stabilized, including those in neighborhoods with the most new development in the past 5 years: Central (-3%), South Boston (-9%), South End (-5%), and Allston/Brighton (-5%). Neighborhoods with rent increases have little new housing production: Mattapan (4%) and West Roxbury (1%).
While rents in older units are stabilizing, demand for newly constructed units remained high in 2016. Among the five neighborhoods with the most listings in new stock, average rents rose between 2015 and 2016.**
* “Older” units were built before 2011. **Rental listings from MLS and RentalBeast.com.
Citywide Rents by Unit Type in New Housing Stock
Rent in Older Housing Stock
|Back Bay/Beacon Hill
How we’ve done it: Our strategies
To responsibly plan for growth, the City has undertaken a number of actions:
- By significantly enhancing collaboration between all departments responsible for housing, the City has created a development environment that is more streamlined, efficient, and functional.
- Working closely with the development community to help them respond to the demands of this housing plan, the City has found the development community to be a thoughtful, innovative partner.
- Permitting systems have been significantly improved; a special Thursday night Zoning Board of Appeals Hearing now hears the more minor cases that had been impeding the ZBA system.
- New Strategic Planning Areas are being created to allow well-designed density in transit-oriented areas that have underutilized commercial uses.
- The City has significantly expanded its offerings of City-owned real estate available for housing production. 140 parcels have been put under agreement since 2014, encompassing 838,000 square feet of land, a quarter-billion dollars in new development, and 580 new units of housing.
- The City has added significant monetary resources to the development of housing, including increasing the City’s operating budget, changing the Inclusionary Development Policy to better leverage the strong market to build affordable housing, and supporting passage of the Community Preservation Act, which is expected to add to the resources available to create new housing.
- The City is promoting innovation in housing production, including new compact living models, facilitating the creation of accessory apartments, energy-positive developments, and pilot density bonus programs.