Boston remains among one of the least affordable cities in the United States, along with New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Regardless of fluctuations in the market, workforce households are faced with unaffordable housing options. The affordable housing crisis has been ongoing in Boston for over 20 years now.

The affordable housing options near urban places of employment are inadequate and do not meet the demands of growing families. These major employment areas are seeing a shortage of both rented and owned housing. This leaves a major burden on the working class forcing them to move further and further out of the city, making for much longer commutes.

So how does Boston compare to other peer markets? According to the American Housing Survey, the Boston metropolitan area rated moderately or severely inadequate in comparison to peer markets. Quality housing units are much too expensive for the workforce. These workforce renter households, particularly those families with three or more persons, are unable to afford new-construction rental apartments.

The high cost of land, entitlement, and construction makes developing new rental housing for these households challenging. Most new rental apartment developments are built with a relatively high percentage of small one and two-bedroom units in order to make economic sense.

Between 2010 and 2020, total household growth in the Boston metropolitan area will exceed total new construction of housing by more than 36,000 units. This shortage of new housing units very likely will lead to increasing home prices and rents, further increasing the disproportion between the availability of affordable workforce housing in the city.

The unmet demand of Boston-area workforce households could be met with additional high-quality rental housing, but this is quite challenging for developers. Creative public financing solutions are needed to help bridge the gap between the supply of adequate workforce housing and the demand the working family has for adequate housing options close to their places of employment.

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