Published in the October 5, 2018 edition
By MICHAEL P. NORTON
State House News Service
BOSTON — Fifteen metropolitan Boston area communities, including Melrose, are coalescing around plans to build even more new housing than Gov. Charlie Baker proposed in his statewide bill.
The Metro Mayors Coalition, at a press conference on Tuesday, announced its “landmark” regional housing production goal of 185,000 new units by 2030. Noting single family home prices are rising faster in Massachusetts than in any other state and rents in metropolitan Boston are the third highest in the country, Baker in December 2017 offered a bill calling for 135,000 new units by 2025. It failed to advance in either branch of the Legislature.
According to the coalition, its 15 cities and towns since 2010 have added nearly 110,000 residents and 148,000 new jobs, while permitting only 32,500 new housing units. The trends are driving up housing prices, making the area less affordable for workers and raising barriers to continued economic growth.
The median home sale price in Massachusetts this year through August is up 6.4 percent to $389,500, according to the Warren Group, and home sales are down by less than 1 percent. Year-to-date condo sales are up 2.6 percent while the median condo sale price has surged 10.1 percent this year to $375,000.
“Our region is in the midst of a housing emergency,” Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said in a statement. “It is a crisis of housing affordability and availability that has deep and disastrous impacts on individuals and families. And it is not contained by municipal boundaries – it is a problem of such scale and scope that it demands cities, towns, and the state come together to develop bold regional solutions.”
The coalition includes Melrose, Arlington, Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Newton, Quincy, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop. Leaders from those communities, which the coalition says are on track to add 235,000 new jobs from 2015 to 2030, last year established a task force to address housing affordability and access problems.
Beacon Hill leaders this year failed to reach agreement on a housing production bill, despite widespread agreement about the depth of the growing problem, and the legislation died without debate on it in the House or Senate. Tensions remain over approaches to housing construction in suburbs and cities, and levels of municipal control over housing decisions.
The coalition mayors say they will be guided in production efforts by principles such as educating local officials about the problem, protecting affordable units and minimizing tear-downs, reducing evictions and eliminating unfair rental practices, and abolishing discrimination against tenants and buyers.
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in Boston estimates that eastern Massachusetts will need 435,000 units of housing by 2040 to meet demand.
The 15-community coalition will base its progress toward the 2030 goal on new units created beginning in 2015, according to Marc Draisen, the planning council’s executive director. Draisen said passage of Baker’s housing legislation would probably help the communities reach its target, but it not essential to reaching the goal because the communities have agreed to pursue it.
“I don’t think legislation is required for us to hit this target,” Draisen said.