Since I started receiving emails from the BRA about affordable housing opportunities in Boston, I think about it more. I have concluded that the current set up will lead to less affordable housing. Under Mayor Menino the city pushes for projects to have 10 or 20% affordable units which sounds good until you look into it and think about it.
- There is a wide range of affordable housing, rated by the percent of the area’s median income of potential renters/buyers: some is directed to people who make up to 50% of Boston’s median income; some 60%; all the way up to 120%. Each of these limits has a different maximum rental/sales price (the numbers are here). It’s then all lumped together as affordable. This means a unit directed towards a person/family up to 120% of the median income is included as affordable even though it’s directed at people who make up to $75,750 (or $108,250 for a family of 4). This leads to crazy things: a 1 bedroom apartment that rents for $2058 can be considered ‘affordable’. Given that, I think the number of affordable units as counted by the city is greatly exaggerated.
- The policy is designed to make things worse, because the percent of new units designed for most of the population (since ‘affordable’ housing is directed to people making up to 120% of the median income) is at most 20%. This means that most of the new housing is being occupied by people making more than 120% of the median income which means the median income in Boston will increase. As the median income increases, the maximum price for ‘affordable’ income will also increase and an increasing price loop ensues (you’ll notice that all the affordable housing is usually at the maximum price allowed under the given guidelines).
One thing that could help is rent control (obviously not for sales), but people in the state decided it wasn’t an option in 1994. I found this to be very annoying: three communities had rent control at the time (Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline) and all three voted to keep rent control.
To get an idea of the breakdown, here are the numbers for all 19 current opportunities:
50%: 2 studios, 20 1 bed, 6 2 bed (these are all in one complex)
80%, 90%, 100%: 1 1 bed in each class
80%: 2 studios, 15 1 bed, 9 2 bed, 1 4 bed
90%: 4 2 bed, 1 4 bed
100%: 1 studios, 9 1 bed, 7 2 bed, 4 3 bed, 1 4 bed
110%: 1 2 bed, 1 3 bed, 1 4 bed
120%: 2 2 bed, 3 3 bed