Boston Is Getting Really Expensive

You may find yourself with a beautiful house, and a beautiful spouse, and a beautiful kid. And a back-breaking mortgage. How did we get here?

expensive boston

Photograph by Songquan Deng/123RF

Snort a Xanax before you read this. Because if you’re living in Boston, your dirty little secret is about to get out: You can’t afford to be here. No one’s judging you, unless you count the rest of the U.S., save New York, Honolulu, and a few other places pricier than here, places you’d never deign to live anyway.

Stoic you are, Bostonians, heirs to transcendentalism, firm believers in self-reliance. You don’t complain, and you just won’t quit. Instead, you spend a huge percentage of your paycheck to house yourself and those you love, and even more to enjoy fancy first-world amenities, like food and electricity. It’s true. Boston’s cost of living is 39.7 percent above the U.S. average, with groceries and healthcare running 26 percent above average, while our median household income remains stubbornly on par with the rest of the country. More than a third of the city’s homeowners work four months or more each year just to pay for housing.

Is it any wonder fewer of us are doing it? According to a U.S. Census report in January, the rate of homeownership in the Greater Boston area is now below 60 percent, the puniest number on record.

There’s simply no place to live. If you sold your home right now, the supply is so low that you might not be able to get back in the market. That’s because the city’s population growth (14.2 percent since 1990) has far exceeded construction rates. Between 1950 and 2000—half a century—remarkably little housing was built. That was fine; Boston’s population was shrinking most of that time. But in the past 20 years the population has exploded, and Boston has been scrambling to catch up.

Unfortunately, most of the new construction you see around town doesn’t match real demand. Developers have built rental and condo towers filled with studios and one-bedrooms designed for people with disposable income seeking luxury living—empty-nesters fleeing the ’burbs, transient DINKs, our well-endowed students. But those units are too small to accommodate Boston’s two major growth groups: millennials who double- and triple-up to afford the rent, and families. As a result, new luxury rental buildings, such as Chinatown’s Radian tower, have had to offer unbelievable deals—like three months of free rent—to compete for the wealthy minority.

The result is a major shortage of the kind of housing we really need, leading to a staggering rise in home values in all neighborhoods. If you just look at condo prices over the past five years, Dorchester has doubled; Southie is up 54 percent; and Roxbury is up 132 percent. Citywide, condo values have gone up 43 percent. We entered this century with a serious housing shortage, and it’s going to take several more boom-bust cycles to catch up. Meanwhile, Boston’s population, and those of neighboring cities like Cambridge and Quincy, will continue to grow while the suburbs stagnate. Many of us are hanging on for dear life.

 


Neighborhood Prices, by Square Foot

Boston’s condo costs range dramatically, depending on location. Hover over each neighborhood below to see costs per square foot in 2015. —By Neighborhood X and Mary Catharine Witt

boston neighborhood prices by square foot map

Proprietary analysis of closed market rate transactions. Analysis excludes affordable and restricted housing units and foreclosures.


Undeterred by shocking prices, ruthless bidding wars, and the prospect of a lifetime of sacrifice, we continue to want a piece of Boston. Why? In part because, like much of the world’s population, we’ve fallen in love with urban living, and Boston is New England’s only real city. (Apologies, Providence.)

Recent college grads, urban sophisticates, techies, and young professionals want to live in close proximity to good restaurants, shops, and cultural centers. They certainly don’t want to waste time sitting in the sixth-worst traffic in the nation. (Point of fact: Boston’s commuters spend an average of 64 hours every year getting high on carbon monoxide while listening to NPR.) That talent pool has been joined by Grandma and Grandpa, Wellesley capitalists, professional women who have stepped out of the workforce to raise their kids—people drawn to city living, some for the first time in their lives, because Boston is safer, and more urbane, than it’s ever been.

Compounding demand is the prodigal return of companies that once squatted along Route 128. They’re setting up shop in Kenmore, the Financial District, Fenway, and the Seaport because they want to be where the action is to attract the region’s talent. Other major companies are following suit, including Converse and GE, both of which moved their headquarters from suburban campuses to downtown Boston to take advantage of the tens of thousands of ambitious young people graduating each year from the area’s 85 colleges and universities. That’s both a blessing and a burden.

When it comes to the high price of housing, you could blame rapacious landlords; or the proliferation of “luxury” condos (where are the “just okay” condos?); or the spawn of the wealthy hoovering up all of our stock; or the VC-financed fantasy salaries at hot startups that tend to vaporize upon entry. But you’d be better off shaking your fist at clouds.

Instead, you might want to start thinking more about the role of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), which for decades has directed what gets built, and where, in the city. Unfortunately, Boston’s only development, planning, and zoning agency historically has had a lot of trouble getting developers to build housing. That’s because it’s more expensive—and more difficult to sell—than office space or hotels. All things being equal, a good businessperson would rather finance a tower for a single, known tenant, such as Vertex or Marriott, than wait for dozens of unknown investors to buy condos one at a time.

Developers’ reluctance to build housing could have been offset by proactive zoning from the BRA. Banks and developers hate unknowns, and the single most important thing a developer needs to know before he or she buys and builds is how much a property is worth. The answer to that question basically comes down to height. If I can build 60 stories, that’s a lot of square footage to rent or sell. If I can build only two stories, well, you can see where this is going. Alas, developers in Boston don’t know how much their land is worth because the BRA is woefully behind on zoning the city. Fifty years behind. In fact, much of Boston is still zoned like a suburban office park, with the exception of a patchwork of special districts where the BRA was forced to pay attention.

As a result, Boston’s developers spend inordinate amounts of money on properties and then spend lots of time trying to extract realistic, 21st-century-approved building heights from the BRA. Don Chiofaro paid a lot for the Harbor Garage in 2007 because he was convinced that he’d be able to talk the city into allowing him to build much taller than the existing zoning allowed. He wasn’t crazy—most of the upzoning in this city comes through variances, or other ad hoc measures. Well, Chiofaro recently looked at his pro forma financial statements and declared that he would rather eat his own concrete garage than build anything less than 1.3 million square feet. Oh! said the BRA. We hate that ugly garage, so how about we compromise at 900,000 square feet? Chiofaro balked. And if he goes, 120 housing units may go, too.

Maybe Chiofaro was overly optimistic for thinking the BRA would give him exactly what he needed. Then again, others have had more luck. Real estate developer Steve Samuels, for instance, bought a bunch of land in the Fenway that was zoned low, and like Chiofaro, he thought that with a little patience, he could get more height from the city. Just look at a map of Boston—it only made sense for the Fenway to become a denser neighborhood to service the Longwood Medical Area and major universities nearby. But the BRA hadn’t given Fenway a second thought. Samuels spent nearly a decade convincing the city and the community that building taller (in some cases, 28 stories taller) wouldn’t turn Boston into a rat-infested hellhole. (Wait, that’s what the Fenway was before he got there.) During that time, he paid taxes, interest, and lawyers’ fees on the property, while assisting the city’s planning process.

Now that the Fenway is built, Samuels looks like a hero. Which he is, because the place was a dump before he got there and now it’s not. But keep in mind that Samuels isn’t doing charity work: He passed along all of those holding and planning costs to the consumer. Now you can rent 488 square feet in the new Van Ness building for $2,954 per month, on property that was a crappy tire shop just a few years ago.

The BRA has also failed to slow down land speculation, leaving consumers (and nearby neighborhoods) to foot the bill. In the Seaport, real estate speculators passed their planning and upzoning costs along to the next speculator, causing land valuation to go through the roof. Put another way: After the public spent $8 billion in federal and state money to ready the Seaport for development, the gamblers went wild buying and selling the potential to build, making tons of money while not building a thing.

Let’s look at one of those deals in detail. In 2004, Frank McCourt sold 23 acres of open parking lots on the South Boston waterfront to News Corp. for $145 million (McCourt was financing his purchase of the L.A. Dodgers). He’d spent years waiting for the city to hammer out a plan for the area, but then unloaded his miserable acres of asphalt. Two years later, News Corp. sold the same land, a little farther along in planning, to Morgan Stanley for $204 million. That’s a 41 percent profit in 24 months without engaging a single crane or backhoe. When the BRA approved the Seaport Square Master Plan, paving the way for major development of midsize towers in 2010, the land finally had real value. Now everyone knew what it was worth. To limit speculating, the BRA could have made Morgan Stanley’s Seaport approvals non-transferrable. But it didn’t.

Instead, over the next five years, Morgan Stanley parceled out its 23 as-yet-unbuilt (but planned and approved) acres to various entities for a total of $654 million. Minus permitting costs, that’s a $450 million profit (more than triple the purchase price). Nice for the investment bank, terrible for Bostonians.

After changing so many hands, the land price was seriously inflated. How did the final buyers offset their costs? They built lots of office space (which is cheaper to build). Few public amenities (why bother?). Fat buildings that take up entire super blocks. And ultra-expensive housing, like at Waterside Place, where a 598-square-foot one-bedroom can be all yours for $2,685 per month. You can’t afford to live here because developers bought land from speculators at hyperinflated prices and had to recoup their costs.

Meanwhile, the BRA has been meting out these valuable height variances in exchange for almost nothing from the private sector. When Morgan Stanley and developer John Hynes got permission to build 6.3 million square feet in the Seaport, a deal worth billions, the city convinced him to donate $8 million to build District Hall, a temporary, quasipublic “innovation” building. After a 10-year lease with the city, Hynes gets his land back. Bostonians, that land is rightfully yours. Let’s put a school there. Or a library. Or a museum.

Other cities are much better at extracting neighborhood-building amenities from private developers. When developer Forest City Ratner got approval to build Frank Gehry’s 76-story New York tower, for example, the Big Apple got a new 100,000-square-foot public school out of the deal—in the building.

 

As Bostonians, we’re willing to put up with a lot. We’ve figured out how to make it work even though we’re dealing with some of the highest costs of living in the country. The proof: On lists evaluating the financial savvy of states’ populations, Massachusetts continually ranks in the middle of the pack. We’re managing to pay our rent and save money. That’s Yankee ingenuity at work.

At one point, Yankee ingenuity even drove how and what we built. When the city’s population exploded during the first wave of immigration, from 1880 to 1920, developers designed what would become the backbone of Boston’s working- and middle-class economy: the incredible, remarkable, fantastic triple-decker. A family could buy the whole thing, live on the first floor, and pay off the mortgage by renting out the rest. Once the mortgage was free and clear, your pregnant teen and her deadbeat beau could move in upstairs for free, and you could visit your lovely grandchildren daily. And so on.

Now we’re building for the wealthy few. And that won’t help us in the long run. Developers’ high building costs are driving them to build smaller units, and lots of them. Forget three-bedrooms. Boston is becoming a city of small apartments. Where will families go? I really don’t know.

Cities lose when they become outrageously expensive. We lose our working people: hospital staff, cops, firemen, taxi drivers, teachers. When rents and home prices skyrocket, these people have to choose among long commutes, leaving the region, or demanding higher salaries. That’s what drives up the region’s exorbitant healthcare, basic-service, education, and food costs. The dearth of quality restaurant workers has made dining out so expensive in Boston that it’s no fun anymore.

Companies risk losing knowledgeable and experienced staff—those thirty- and fortysomethings—because when people start families, they find themselves priced out. It’s difficult to scale up when you lack middle management. We talk about innovation, but while companies may stick around, they’ll hire cheaper contract labor from around the country, and the world, rather than employ locally. The creative class will seek more-affordable towns, taking Boston’s funkier side—the boutiques, bakeries, breweries, and galleries—with them. Because the city has failed to protect small retail, more interesting spots are taking root in Worcester, Providence, and Portland. It’s happening now. I hope you like T. J. Maxx and Starbucks. And then, of course, there’s the high level of stress we’re experiencing trying to make ends meet. Which explains the aggressive driving and all of that honking.

 

A better regional plan would take the heat off Boston’s real estate. For years, progressive planners have discussed the possibility of developing an “Urban Ring” of communities around Boston. These mini hubs would be zoned to accommodate greater density, to act more like small cities and support the industry, shops, restaurants, and nightlife people crave. They would be connected to one another by a public transportation system designed as a ring, rather than spokes radiating from Boston’s center.

Unfortunately, it would take a massive effort to get city, town, and state administrators to agree on a regional transportation system that supported such an interconnected vision. In fact, MassDOT suspended its Urban Ring planning in 2010 due to insufficient funds, even as the region’s rail service limps along and traffic worsens.

Small thinking holds us back. When every Massachusetts town operates as an independent entity, we only hurt ourselves. We witnessed that a couple of years ago when Cambridge and Boston battled for Vertex’s headquarters. Two cities that the rest of the world sees as one fought as rivals, rather than reap the benefits of a joint venture. As Boston launches its major planning effort, dubbed Imagine Boston 2030, regional planning should drive the discussion. The sidewalk doesn’t end at the city line.

Without regional planning, proactive upzoning, and faster growth, the market will determine who stays, and who goes. If you have the cash, you can stay. If you don’t, adios.

 


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  • PatriciaGoodwin

    Rachel Slade, you are my new heroine! Great writing! I feel I shouldn’t have enjoyed reading bad news so much, but hope springs eternal, especially in Boston.

  • http://johnstephendwyer.com/ John Stephen Dwyer

    Very interesting and informative.

  • http://www.dewdrops.net/drew Drew V

    Fantastic article. Housing rarely gets talked about at more than a “rent is too damn high!” level. Thank you for writing it.

    It’s a challenging issue because, while it adds an enormous real cost to everyone who lives here, it’s nuanced and not something politicians have wanted to touch. Hopefully we’ll find a way to make it part of the discourse.

  • pto

    I think you meant “Kendall” not “setting up shop in Kenmore”. Companies are not setting up shop in Kenmore.

  • justcat

    I lived in the Fenway for years, met some great friends, met my husband, and I never thought it was a dump. I don’t think any of my friends did either. We had great restaurants, a colorful group of people, co-existed with students (sometimes that didn’t work out so well – but we knew they’d be gone in a year), and basically had a great time! Why do they call it a rat-infested hell-hole? That’s BS!

  • ad3

    Your analysis of speculation, zoning, and the BRA’s failures are spot on. Great writing too. My one quibble is with the assertion that family housing is the most pressing need. As you noted yourself, the triple decker is an ideal example of urban family housing. And we have lots of them! But they’re currently stuffed with grad students and young professionals. Not all of those people WANT to bunk up…if there were more affordable options in the studio, 1, and 2 bedroom range, surely they’d choose those options. That’s why I would echo Mike Ross, who wrote about this for WBUR awhile back, in saying that the sizes of apartments being built are the right ones. It’s the fact that they come with luxury features that’s the real problem, and with the cost of land and building what they are, that’s not the developers’ fault. The solutions for THAT problem are the same as those you suggest, so in the end, we agree.

  • ThatPhotoManTrav

    “The creative class will seek more-affordable towns, taking Boston’s funkier side—the boutiques, bakeries, breweries, and galleries—with them. Because the city has failed to protect small retail, more interesting spots are taking root in Worcester, Providence, and Portland. It’s happening now. ”

    I live in Providence and I can personally tell you this is very true. There are amazing new artistic venues, stores, and galleries that pop up all the time because it’s affordable here.

    My girlfriend & I live in Pawtucket (5 minutes outside Providence over the boarder), and for a spacious one bedroom, $1 wash and dry, 2 free parking spots, 24/7 on site grounds keeper, free snow plow and mowing, heat and hot water included, (we pay between the two of us $30 in bills on the high side), a total of $475-$480 a person. Were down the street from one of the most successful artist lofts and gallery spaces, along with it’s cheap live music and events.

    Food costs here are much more affordable and have tons of local farmers and organic shops for cheap. There are a total of 15 or so large scale markets 7 days a week, as well as one giant one during the winter months that hires artists to play music and dance.

    Healthcare is awful (but that’s everywhere), Taxes are high (7%), but you almost don’t feel it with how low costs are.

    My dollar has never gone further. This is in conjunction to jobs that paid us less than $10 an hour, and rents for a shared house of 5 people for me at $600 in Dorchester, and her making a lot, but paying for a 380 sqaure foot one bedroom in Brighton for $1400 a month (that includes all bills and parking). We are very happy to be here now.

  • BN

    FINALLY, someone has spoken out loud about this!!

    (thank you)

    I used to have a unilateral love affair w/ Boston since moving here 15yrs ago, but over the past few years it has become the most conflicting, ‘it’s complicated’ relationship ever…

    I am from Buffalo, NY and people are living quite well there now…

    Buffalo, like many similar cities, are now the place to be and experiencing a rebirth of their own.
    Just as you mention, the creative class seeking other towns, etc–which makes sense.
    I, too, have days when I just want to run and wonder ‘what the hell am I doing here?’.

    But then there are the spell-bound days (many of them) when I am walking through the Public Garden, enjoying impromptu connection w/ lovely neighbors, the sense of community and enjoying the convenience of getting all errands done by foot…
    Plus, I now have a family.
    While we are grateful for the home we own in downtown Boston, but it is ‘cozy’ and we would love some more square footage.
    It is becoming clear that unless we have a trust fund/inheritance and/or work in the equity business, we will not be buying anything bigger anytime soon.
    Who knew that a healthy combined six-figure income would only take one so far here in Boston and make you feel like you are ‘less fortunate’! Ha!
    Meanwhile anywhere else we would be considered flat out rich.
    And it does get old having to constantly make choices, sacrafices…
    This or that, etc.
    For example, as you bring up, the traffic here in Boston–
    I refuse, 100% flat-out refuse, to commute and waste my time/life sitting on a highway crawling to and from work, or riding a defunct T, all for some space (that I will have to work harder to maintain and have less time to do so if commuting…).

    You just cannot have it all–again, unless a trust fund or insane paying job is in the cards.
    Kinda frustrating.

    Sometimes it makes me sad at times b/c so many of us are being outpriced (google Brooklyn–same story). Quite frankly, I have NO idea how the minimum wage worker even attempts to live in the greater Boston area…

    But, on the other hand, I do remind myself often that we do really have it good here in Boston in many ways.

    There are opportunities for employment abound compared to other cities, room for niche ideas, cultural opportunities and exposures are constant, the history and the bright people who make up this area are all over the place.
    It’s stimulating and if you like that kind of thing, it’s a tub of butter.

    You cannot be bored here.

    So my it’s complicated relationship w/ Boston continues… sigh.

    There are worse problems for sure–I do know that (checkin’ my privilege).

    Thanks for writing this important piece.

    • Chris Whittle

      Exactly, why would someone spend a million dollars on a Downtown Boston condo and they could have a full single-family house in the suburbs for the same price?

      • BN

        Not everyone has suburb dreams-
        There’s more than just the house-
        There’s culture, community, value systems (some are insanely materialistic and homogenous… no thanks!). And commutes can cause quality of life to plummet.

      • BN

        Adding-
        Even the suburbs are getting obnoxiously priced compared to many other places.

  • BN

    Adding-
    We often wonder where we are going to put all these people stacked one upon another… they bring w/ them more cars and traffic, need for parking…
    It just seems we are failing to consider this aspect.

  • anonymouser

    Two issues with this otherwise insightful article.
    1. No mention of NIMBYism and role transit plays in achieving density. For example, South Boston is actively working to keep more housing out for a variety of reasons, including poor transit service. (I’m not saying they’re right, just saying that’s what they say.) See: Gate of Heaven School redevelopment.
    2. Technically, Chiofaro’s lack of redevelopment of the Harbor Garage is not a city zoning issue, but is subject to Chapter 91 regulations (within 250′ and seaward of the first public way) and therefore a state-level issue. A recent article (in the Globe I think) pointed out that state officials are the ones lowering the permitted height.
    I hope that at least the latter issue can be addressed and that a follow-up article would include suggestions on moving forward and how to ensure displacement does not occur as more housing is developed in historically less affluent neighborhoods.

    • anonymouser

      Another thought that has been bugging me about the author’s point on Chiofaro. She decries the loss of 120 housing units, but more emphatically decries the construction of luxury residential units. Is there any impression that the units Chiofaro would construct would be less than luxury?

  • http://www.fibrowitch.net/ Jan Dumas

    This is why I moved to Revere, but now we are experiencing the same problem with seeing only luxury small apartments being built.

    • kevin777

      you have to leave Mass altogether. But if you do please dont come to NH if you’re a leftist.

  • Boeser Wolf

    Let’s be honest here and call it was it really is: GREED. Developers are pushing prices ever higher all for the sake of making a killing, and killing the neighborhoods they are.

    • LM

      Developers don’t set the price. The price is determined by what someone is willing to pay.

      • Boeser Wolf

        When a developer builds a structure, they determine what they can get per unit. The reason Boston is quickly becoming over developed with high rises everywhere is because developers want to maximize their profit margins on the square footage of land. Many refuse to build if they cannot overturn height and density restrictions. They are gobbling up two and three family homes to make a quick buck on creating overpriced condos, driving out the working class families that used to live here. They also don’t give one whit about the traffic mess they help create. Our roadways and our public transportation system are choking under the strain of the ever higher densities. I blame the developers and their greed.

        • LM

          If it worked the way you say rents would be 10x what they are today. Rents are based on what someone is willing to pay, otherwise it doesn’t rent.

          The market sets the price, no one else.

          • Livin Lynn

            Ha! rents are based on how many students you can cram into a two bedroom apartment. If they are willing to pay 4 or 5 times the going rate, it is only because the city of Boston has allowed overcrowding to go on without any fear that the landlord will be punished.

          • LM

            Why do you think they try to cram? Because apartments are too expensive. What do you prefer? Students live on the street? Close a school?

            We have to build more housing. A lot more. And NIMBYs need to get out of the way.

      • Livin Lynn

        So why are they having to offer free three month’s rent or free parking to entice buyers?

    • kevin777

      A Bernie Sanders voter I see. The problem is not “greed”. Everyone’s greedy and always has been. There were greedy people when housing in Boston was a lot cheaper. Pick up an economics book. Will ya.

  • http://www.WouldbeBrewmaster.com Jason Chalifour

    Housing affordability is a simple issue of supply and demand. Restrictive zoning and height restrictions artificially limit the supply of housing, which drives up cost. The issue is acute in Boston, but this is a problem inside the entire 128 corridor.

    • Sandy Fischer

      I’d be interested to see how many of these new residential buildings are at full capacity.

      • Josh Bloomer

        Not many are at full capacity, most of them are struggling to find tenants.

  • JumboBuc

    “After changing so many hands, the land price was seriously inflated. How did the final buyers offset their costs? They built lots of office space (which is cheaper to build). Few public amenities (why bother?). Fat buildings that take up entire super blocks. And ultra-expensive housing, like at Waterside Place, where a 598-square-foot one-bedroom can be all yours for $2,685 per month. You can’t afford to live here because developers bought land from speculators at hyperinflated prices and had to recoup their costs.”

    This makes little to no sense and betrays a serious misunderstanding of how markets work. The author seems to believe that the land is only worth $600+ million because it kept changing hands, and if only Frank McCourt held on to that land for twelve more years instead of selling it then it would be less valuable than it is today. That defies logic. Twenty-three acres in the Seaport are worth $654 million because that is the value the market is willing to pay for it. Demand is high and supply is low so develop-able land sells for a premium, and those Seaport parcels in particular became much more develop-able over the last decade-plus as zoning and permitting changes occurred (as spelled out in the article). It doesn’t matter which particular parties owned the property when the planning occurred, all that matters is that the planning occurred at all.The number of times the properties changed hands has no effect on their current value.

    The author cites Waterside Place as an example of high prices “because developers bought land from speculators at hyperinflated prices”, but that development is actually built on land leased from Massport. This pretty much perfectly proves my point…

    Speculation doesn’t lead to appreciation, appreciation leads to speculation.

    • Rachel

      I think you misunderstand. If land appreciates with planning, and if the original buyer had held onto it, then the original buyer’s investment costs would have been significantly lower than the final buyer’s, right? If McCourt had built on land that he owned, his land investment would have been nominal. His only costs would have been construction costs. Instead, investors allowed land to appreciate and then flipped it. The price the next buyer paid is significantly higher, hence their initial real costs are significantly higher. How do they offset this?

      • JumboBuc

        But the value of the land is the value of the land. If McCourt had kept the land all this time the buildings would still be just as expensive. The only difference would be that McCourt would have collected all of this profit (“scarcity rent”) for himself instead of having it spread over multiple parties. Developers are always going to seek the highest price possible for their projects, no matter what they paid for the land originally.

        Waterside Place is actually a perfect illustration of this. That is built on land that Massport, a state agency, has owned for years–no private speculation here–but it’s still just as expensive as any of the projects built on pricy private land. It’s expensive because that is the price the market is willing to pay, so that’s what developers and landlords charge.

      • Livin Lynn

        No, the BRA allowed the land to appreciate because it did not put proper controls on it.

  • Adrian Johnson

    Assachusetts, land of do nothing liberals and pretentious NIMBYs. You get what you deserve!

    • kevin777

      Bingo

  • James Madden

    Not one thought to construction prices in an otherwise well-researched article? Lots of good attention to the very real problems of bad zoning and land costs, but land costs are a fraction of development cost. Research the cost of construction.

  • Nick Schira

    A very well researched Article! There’s lots of chatter below about supply, demand, and free markets. When speculators (parties that never truly intend to build) enter the same market for land as bonafide developers, they increase the demand and raise the price. When developers build office space in lieu of housing they (indirectly) increase both the supply of jobs and the demand for housing. Another factor here is the half million students at the 85 local colleges and universities who generally are paying rent with future earnings – effectively increasing demand as individuals who would otherwise not be in the market enter on leverage.

  • kevin777

    Lots of leftist agenda 21 propaganda in here. “Regional planning”, etc. Just get out of Massachusetts and your living standard will improve greatly.

    • Markey

      Regional planning is leftist? OMG

  • Livin Lynn

    The blame lays squarely on the BRA. It should have been abolished years ago in favor of a citizen participation planning board. Instead we have allowed the BRA to cozy up to developers and allow them to develop disasterous high rises with inadequate parking, zero green space, no thought of connecting development with public transportation, no Red/Blue connector, and encroachment on the Rose Kennedy Greenway from all angles.

  • Donald Morrison

    Or we could just not build 60 story towers and just say “no vacancy.”

  • Donald Morrison

    And about Samuels, the Fenway and high rents: the Fenway now sucks. We traded rodents (in a 400 year old city built in a swamp) for stark high rises. And Target. And a shitty restaurant that boasts a carport as a beer garden. And ridiculous traffic. And no parking. The penalties do not offset.

  • Whatever

    I can’t wait for the housing bubble to burst and all these high rise apartment brokers to go bankrupt. This is disgusting. $1300 for a basement closet studio in metro Boston. $5000 for a studio in backbay??? There’s no limit. It’s ridiculous. And after you do find a reasonable apartment, the landlord/broker is looking for excellent credit. Wake up Boston. No one has excellent credit and $2000 for a studio in a college city with half the population being college graduates.