The results are in. Massachusetts is second only to Hawaii!
No, not in terms of great weather, or tourism dollars, or surf music.
Massachusetts is second only to Hawaii in housing costs. In other words, there’s no more expensive place in the continental U.S. to live, despite four decades of 40B.
Massachusetts is the only state with a 40B type law that enables developers to build high density suburban middle class housing utilizing government subsidies and call it “affordable housing.” This clearly depletes state government resources available for real affordable housing and – because it makes the value of land much higher to developers who can bust zoning requirements – drives up the cost of all housing.
Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC released its annual Home Listing Report last week showing that Mass. ranks only behind Hawaii. More densely populated states, and smaller states such as Rhode Island, Delaware, and Connecticut, could not challenge Massachusetts for the honor of the most expensive housing in the continental U.S.
Despite the 40B law’s expansion from rental to ownership housing (condos, single-family homes) in 1999 and the ensuing acceleration of 40B construction statewide, the statute has had the opposite of its desired effect on housing affordability in the Commonwealth. According to Zillow.com, median house prices shot up from $257,000 in January, 2003 to $306,000 in October, 2012.
One could argue that in measuring housing affordability in a particular geographic area, one must factor in the relative income of the families in that area. Sale prices or list prices, read in isolation, don’t tell us whether those prices are in fact “unaffordable.” Zillow has compiled nationwide ’price to income’ ratios, including historic data from the period between 1984 and 1999. According to Zillow’s data, the price to income ratio in the Boston metropolitan area has increased by 10% since 1999. Based on this evidence, it’s hard to argue that Chapter 40B has accomplished anything.
Perhaps the legislature will finally take up meaningful land use planning reform in the next legislative session.
Roland Van Liew