Living in Boston

The Boston Globe has an article about the growing appeal of living in Boston:

Almost everywhere you look, it seems, is a new building site: A dozen towers are rising in the downtown area, and city-wide some 5,300 homes are currently under development. Boylston Street near Fenway Park is humming with construction during the day and crowds of diners at night. Downtown Crossing has lured fine restaurants and hundreds of luxury residences. And even once rough-hewn neighborhoods such as South Boston are increasingly drawing gourmet food stores, hip bars, and tony apartments.

The population surge has thoroughly reversed the suburban migration that began in the 1950s, when Boston peaked at about 800,000 people. Head counts in the South End and downtown have jumped by 20 percent since 2000.

In just one year alone — 2010 — Boston’s population grew by 7,500 people, and is now above 625,000, its highest level since the 1970s, according to city data.

They bury the lede, Boston is becoming a city for the rich:

“It’s virtually impossible for someone of my income level to own or rent in the city,” said Quinton Kerns, a 27-year-old urban designer who pays $600 a month to share a Harvard Square apartment with five roommates. And with $150,000 in student loan debt, Kerns doesn’t see himself moving up in the housing market anytime soon.

Even though Boston added more units of housing in the last decade than in the three previous decades combined, the pace of new development is not keeping up with all the people who want to live here. The Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University predicts that unless annual housing production in the Boston area doubles — from 6,000 units to 12,000 units a year — already sky-high prices will soar.

Average rents in Boston are about $1,700 a month. But much of the new housing built in the past few years are luxury residences that command monthly rent of $4,000 and more. Both the city and state have launched initiatives to build more moderate-priced housing; the Compact Neighborhoods program by the Patrick administration aims to spur construction of 10,000 multifamily housing units a year in Massachusetts, largely to retain young workers being priced out of the market.

Mayor Thomas Menino’s administration has begun encouraging developers in the South Boston Innovation District to build micro-housing units — tiny apartments with rents that people just starting out can afford.

Yet here too that goal is proving elusive. At Factory 63, a newly renovated building with units as small as 375-square-feet, so many people applied for its first group of apartments that a lottery was required to parcel them out. The prices ended up at $1,700 to $2,400 a month, a few hundred dollars higher than officials had initially hoped.

The problem with all this luxury housing is that it actually makes the situation worse. The new units are made for people who live outside of the city and then drive up prices in the nearby community. And the talk of ‘affordable housing’ becomes silly when a $1700 one bedroom apartment is considered affordable. Here’s an example of the way the city is looked at:

One of the fastest changing neighborhoods is the Fenway area, where the population increased 15 percent from 2000 to 2010. For decades its main boulevard — Boylston Street — was a scrubby, traffic-choked row of gas stations and repair shops. But in just a few short years, several modern, sleek apartment and retail buildings have gone up, and the strip now boasts a sushi place, Southern barbecue restaurant, and popular nightspots that spill crowds well into the night.

And it’s made the Fenway area much more expensive. Is this progress? Where do all the people who work in the Fenway and nearby Longwood area live? None of the lab workers, nurses, or other support staff can afford to live in all those ‘sleek’ apartments. Ah well, they don’t matter in the scheme of things.

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