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'Affordable housing' in Boston really isn't, not for families, councilor says

The City Council will take a look at how to keep moderate-income families in Boston.

Councilor Liz Breadon (Allston/Brighton), who called for a hearing on the issue, said that the city's current boom in housing construction is failing to free up units for families as expected: Young professionals who were supposed to move into all the gleaming new studios and one-bedrooms are, instead, continuing to share larger units with roommates, because that's all they can afford.

That, in turn, she said, makes it that much more difficult - and expensive - for families with children to find a place to live in the city.

PDF icon Affordable housing hearing request194.39 KB


If all the young professionals are staying in family housing - who's filling up all the gleaming new apartments? Haven't heard of any massive real estate glut beyond some modest stagnation in the luxury rental market.


Some yuppies but also a lot of empty nesters and those temporarily working in Boston who see no reason to fork over a full month's rent as a fee along with an equally sized security deposit on a unit who's owner has decided to set the price per square foot until it matches the rent one would pay at a newer, pet-friendly building with today's amenities where they don't charge a fee and only require a nominal security deposit.

Personally, I'd vote for the reinstatement of rent control. For many reasons.


The Boston area is not pet friendly at all. I rent (can't afford to buy at age 46) and I have two dogs. I once looked at the Zillow map of rentals not allowing pets and rentals allowing pets and it must be 15-1 no pets. Pet owners surge on places that allow pets because it is a unicorn. One of my dogs is a pitbull style dog and that makes it 10x harder. I have mov3ed three times in 5 years and on top of that most apartments require first, last, security and broker fee. That could be upwards of $10,000. Who has that lying around? My 401k is less because of it.

I 1000% support rent control, Growing up,, we often visited my grandfather, who had a rent controlled apartment on Beacon Street in Brookline.

Many of those fancy new luxury buildings are being rented out as hotel suites.


Gleaming new apartments with no tenants but great investment opportunities for China:



Boston has been a popular parking lot for foreign investors for years now. https://bostonrealestatetimes.com/boston-ranked-top-five-u-s-markets-for...

And individual condos are even bundled into corporate investment portfolios for domestic consumption.
https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2018/09/10/boston-new-luxury-towers... and

A lot of those investment condos aren't being used for regular housing; they're short term AirBnB style vacay rentals, or pied-a-terres, or even just empty. Or corporate pied-a-terres, that get used a few weeks a year.

And sometimes a wealthy parent buys a 4 bed condo for their child who's going to school in Boston to live in, alone. Which is wild, but at least it's being used.

So with 35%+ not being used as resident housing in the new luxe buildings-- or even the luxe-aspirational buildings-- they aren't having much impact on the residential market.

We're not seeing luxury apartments rented to the rest of us, because the glut exists but isn't felt by the owners. And if the owner just wants a safe place to rest their money for 20 years, they may not want to deal with the maintenance, liability, or wear & tear of having tenants who could depreciate the condo.

Because Boston housing is marketed like beanie babies or gold bonds, we have a housing shortage at the same time as a housing glut. This is the same model that caused the Irish famine, when enough food was being produced in Ireland to feed that farmers, but landlords sold it to wealthier clients instead.

Instead of starvation, we have a housing crisis.


There is no evidence to prove your point. The IPS study referenced in the Globe article examined only a dozen expensive buildings Downtown. The 1,800 units covered represent less than 3.8% of housing unit growth since 2000, when the earliest of the dozen case studies was built (almost—they actually include stuff built back in the 1980s.) In fact, rental vacancy rates as measured by the US Census (ACS table B25004) are near historic lows (slightly up since 2014, which is _good_ news.) The 10,382 units that were counted in 2018 as "sold, not occupied" or for "seasonal, recreational, or occasional use" (indicators of speculative holdings) comprise just 3.5% of the total housing stock in the City. Unfortunately, that share is growing, and we should do more to either tax those units for affordable housing or otherwise incentivize occupancy, but they alone are not responsible for the City's chronic housing shortage that has resulted from a booming economy, high quality of life, and staunch opposition to new construction in Boston's outlying neighborhoods.

Who in the world told you that low vacancy rates are good for low & moderate income residents?

Anyway, I was responding to Stevil, not to Adam's posting.

Low vacancy rates=bad for renters
"Glut" = high vacancy rates
Our vacancy rates are very low.
Ergo, we do not have a glut.

They rent 3 bedroom apartments and kick in 1500 each for the privilege. Now families can't compete and are forced out of the City. In later years they be sick of that and will over-pay for a small apartment. Later perhaps they will buy a condo, maybe a lux one. Know Your Yuppies.

The population of the City of Boston, as estimated by the Census Bureau, increased by just under 77,000 residents between 2010 and 2018. That's an increase of over 12%. If the building boom didn't produce somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 new housing units (assuming we're talking about housing targeted at young, mostly single professionals) then the increase in supply will have been outpaced by the demand for housing in Boston.

Rent control won't solve that problem apart from giving current tenants an "I've-got-mine-so-screw-the-rest-of-you" break. The current affordable housing set-asides don't solve the problem, either. People who are lucky enough to win the lottery for an income-restricted unit stay there long-term and rents in the rest of the market continue to rise due to restricted supply.

There are two ways to solve the problem of housing affordability. Either build enough housing to meet the demand or make Boston an undesirable place to live and lower demand. The T is working hard on the latter strategy but the City Council could do more on either side.


Those 'young professionals' rooming together, saving money, are constituents too, just as much as families are. It's unfortunate that the council is working against them instead of supporting them.


more mobile and with less to lose than families

They should apply for the studio/1br units. There are plenty there and available. Three single people can apply for 2-3br units but an actual family of 3 cannot apply for the studios/1brs. So they are taking away from others when there are other options. Of course everyone deserves affordable housing. Equity is key

Most of the time people don't choose to live with roommates after college, they have to out of necessity due to low wages and insane housing costs. Ever been to San Francisco? There are people in their 50s still living with roommates due to out of control housing costs.

Point is, you can't act like it's a complete choice. Many people would live by themselves if they could afford to. People with kids aren't the only ones screwed by wages not keeping pace with cost of living and people with kids aren't the only demographic living in the city.


They make too much money to qualify for the affordable units and not enough money to afford market rate rent. There's a big gap in the 80-120% AMI range and that's why so many yuppies are staying in roommate situations. Living further out doesn't help because the cost of commuting eats up any savings on rent within a 1 hour or so distance from the city.

Boston and the snob zoned surrounding towns need to build more housing to account for population growth and centralization of the job market.


Yeah, but for many people, the only way they can afford a 3br for their family is because they spent their 20's living with roommates and paying a third of the cost of a one person studio. The money they save now becomes a down payment for buying a home later.


They should make the best decisions for themselves, given their wages, other costs, and own housing needs. And if that means rooming together in a 2BR or 3BR, so be it.

They should not make sub-optimal decisions for themselves in order to meet your sense of equity.


I actually just tried applying to a lottery for a studio and was told that I was ineligible because I made over 70% AMI but below 100% AMI. Would love to move on from living in a 3 bed with roommates, but haven't had the opportunity (other than, well, leaving the city entirely).





Try these sites. Plenty of studios and 1brs

The Metrolist occasionally has opportunities in Boston, but it looks like the listings at the other two are almost exclusively far-flung suburbs and exurbs.

You're of course right. But those young professionals don't vote much in local elections. So the councilors will keep scapegoating them for what is actually local and state government's failure to address our housing supply crisis. Liz Breadon won her Council seat with this scapegoating of young professionals and renters, so at least she's consistent now that she's an elected official. She has no actual answers, just using them as an easy target.


She didn't scapegoat anyone, she just pointed out that the the city's strategy of approving lots of apartment buildings with high rents is not working. Singles are still in roommate situations because it's much cheaper. Many also prefer to be in a house as opposed to a building.

She goes on and on about needing "family housing" which is not-subtle code for "get the students and young professionals out of here." If she said the same thing about people based on their race, she'd be rightly run out of town.

Maybe it's code for "we need more family housing". I know families who want to live (or stay) in Brighton, but couldn't because there was nothing available that they could afford. There's a limited supply of houses, and none of these new apt/condo buildings going up have anything with three bedrooms or more.

As a family of 4 we have lost out on many of the lotterries (2/3 BRs) to young professionals with no children and roommate situations. There is so much new housing in the city but most are empty because they simply will not put the people who they claimed to create it for in the units.


The affordables have a preference for Boston residents, with at least one person per bedroom (i.e. parent/parents with 1 child for a 2 bed, or 1 boy 1 girl for 3 bed, 3 kids etc). When any utility bill is considered proof , its not hard to get the residency preference. There are affordable condos where its a couple, no children, that won a lottery for a two bedroom. How is that possible? I am guessing that both apply, but aren't married so each counts as a person per bedroom. If one of them is a student or has only part time job, its easier to stay in the income guideline. Otherwise I am perplexed as to how single adults with no dependents can win the 2 and 3 bedroom lotteries.

What does that even mean? Who is the "they" and how do you suggest they make people live in units that are built? If a young professional can't afford to pay $2000+ for a 1 bedroom then they're going to live somewhere they can afford, which is likely a 2-3br with roommates. I mean, you're aware that most of these units being built aren't affordable to the average person, right? A developer can't make anyone live in a unit they can't afford...


So, unrelated people can apply for income-restricted housing? There are no age restrictions on larger units? Studio and one-bedrooms are the norm in senior housing. Very interested to know more about this.

That is my guess. It's hard to figure how there are single adults getting into 2+ bedroom affordable condos when there is technically a preference for at least 1 person per bedroom (maybe doesn't require them being a dependent?).
Affordable rentals usually are in a building with a management company. That management company then does a credit/background check on the lowest number lottery winners. If someone is #1 in the lottery for an affordable apartment but their credit is not deemed worthy by a management company, its on to the next in line. Suppose they could do this until reaching a single individual on the list, and that could explain some of the 2+ bedroom affordable rentals having no kids/dependents living there?

AMI is calculated to the average median income of the entire 'Greater Boston' which is much much higher than the AMi of Boston itself. Because it includes Weston Wellesley Newton Rowley HIngham etc. It invites folks from outside of the city to come in.

The AMI should be set to the median household income of Boston ~70-75k in 2020.

So 80% AMI for a family of 3 should be ~60k.

There's a reason AMI is set to the regional median. It ensures that low income folks will have access to housing in high income neighborhoods. If we set AMI to local incomes, "affordable" housing in Weston would be available only to people making $180,000 per year (80% of Weston's median). If you're worried about whether the affordability levels provide access, fight for deeper levels of affordability (e.g., 30% and 50% AMI), don't get distracted by screwing around with the measure itself.


The councilor identifies known problems. That’s good but not unique. Does she propose any solutions? I see none identified.

Ever fixed anything. Its all feel good posturing and lip service.

If the city council is looking into and holding hearings on this matter, it's already too late.

Renting in Boston for single working class people either. Even if you're making 15 dollars an hour how much of that do you think you can you give for rent and still be able to cover food and transportation costs and maybe some entertainment? Making 15 dollars an house gives you roughly $1800 a month. The cheapest studio I could find in the Nubian Square area was $1450.


I thought the law changing AirBnB were going to free up all these houses and spaces? Apparently just another way to punish home owners,more garbage from the City Council

Why are so many assuming that these people with roommates are young professionals? And so what if they are? And where do you think the people that work in your cafes and restaurants and at nonprofits, and people who have serious student loan debt live? Does it occur to anyone that these people who have roommates might want to move into their own place and have kids but can’t afford it? Do you seriously think that all the 2 plus bedroom apartments are only take up by people under 30? Who wants to commute to a job in Boston that pays under 50k? Those people are also living in these apartments with roommates. They also vote.