Latest News 2017 December Families Can't Afford the Homes They Need to Grow

Families Can't Afford the Homes They Need to Grow

Families in Boston are having difficulty finding homes with enough space near the city center. Typically affordable middle-income home prices have spiked in cities across America—but in Boston, the problem is particularly unique (according to aGoverning report).

In Boston, families have traditionally been able to afford triple-decker homes, which provide enough space to house a 3-5 person family unit. Unfortunately, Boston triple-decker prices have increased by 85 percent since 2009. Unlike cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco, Boston has enough large-sized homes to accommodate families in the city.

However, being able to afford them is difficult due to:

  • College students needing housing near their universities
  • Groups of individuals outbidding families for the same large-sized homes
  • Seniors leaving for warmer climates in smaller numbers, choosing to age in place
  • Seniors owning large family homes despite no longer having large families
  • Developers transforming large homes into groups of apartment units

Healthy economies are attracting young people, and rather than finding affordable apartments, many of these young people are turning to large homes for communal living. Investors have responded by making generous offers to owners of 4- and 5-bedroom homes, converting them into dorm-like units. Most middle-income families can't afford to compete with investors and housing developers.

The problem is exacerbated by the growing rental economy as well. More than half of renters spend over a third of income on housing. Most rentals can't accommodate larger families, forcing them to live in smaller spaces.

As a result, the most expensive cities in the country have very few home listings that are a.) affordable and b.) large enough for a family (three bedrooms). In the top 10 most expensive U.S. cities, only 17 percent of listings allow average families with median incomes to live near the city center. The next 15 most-expensive cities have a much larger amount of affordable family home listings, but many of those homes are in high-poverty neighborhoods—where many families choose to avoid.

In areas where affordable housing isn't lacking in volume, incomes are flat while rents are rising. Boston rent prices rise by 13.2 percent every year, while incomes rise by 2.4 percent annually. Boston leaders have goals to help reduce the cost of family housing, particularly for middle-income families that are getting priced out.

Real estate developers believe families can make it work by:

  • Willing to take a smaller space
  • Willing to commute from suburbs
  • Moving to a higher-crime (lower-cost) neighborhood

Officials are concerned about the future of cities as well. Expensive cities like San Francisco have the lowest population of people under 18 of any city in the country. People in their 20s and 30s are running to city centers, unwilling to live in distant suburbs. However, city housing officials aren't sure what kind of families these people will be able to raise with such a shortage of affordable housing space.

Family housing is a health issue, as well. Spending too much on housing means less money for healthcare, quality food, and other living costs. Overcrowded living situations (defined as more than 2 people to a room) are linked to injury, infection, and depression. When families aren't given the opportunity to afford the homes they need to grow, cities will suffer.

Officials need to create solutions that allow median-income families to live among the young people flocking to cities and the seniors who have chosen to stay. Parents and children deserve access to the rich culture and resources every city offers.