On day one of last week’s Housing Opportunity Conference, the Urban Land Institute’s New England chapter and the national organizations Terwilliger Center for Housing released a new report entitled “Building for the Middle: Housing Greater Boston’s Workforce.”
According to the report, the Boston metrpolitan area will require 800,000 more workers by 2030. Many of them will be able to take over houses from baby boomers dying, moving to Florida or into assisted living communities, but “200,000 additional units of workforce housing, at a variety of price points, are needed to prevent increases in housing cost burden.”
Middle-income households may need at least 21,000 new units and low-income households could need 108,000 units.
The report suggests that some of the region’s housing needs could be met by cities like Lynn, Lowell and Brockton — Massachusetts’ former industrial cities that have been in decline for some time. The report fails to point out that those cities have poor public transit within them and infrequent and slow connections to Boston. However, there have been proposals to extend the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Blue Line to Lynn since at least the 1940s.
The reports faults suburban communities that have adopted restrictive zoning and declined to permit denser single family housing or any multifamily housing for helping to increase costs, but notes that there has been a trend towards wage polarization. The authors found that since 1990, high income jobs and low income jobs have been growing, but middle income jobs have been disappearing.
The report is optimistic that things are beginning to change, however. “Due to significant advocacy . . . city and town governments have been permitting newe developments across the region,” the report concluded. “These recent approvals of so many residential projects indicate that the tide of public opinion about residential building is starting to shift.”