Boston's Crazy Rental Prices

Mayor Menino should make room in Boston not just for middle class families, but for young renters.

(2013 Boston Apartment Prices Map via Jeff Kaufman)

During last night's State of the City address, Mayor Tom Menino told the crowd: “We’ll make available 1 million square feet of city-owned property for development into homes for middle class families.”

Menino covered a lot of ground in his speech, but this point struck me. The city desperately needs housing that's more affordable for not just middle-class families, but for young people, too. Check out the map above, courtesy Jeff Kaufman, a local data visualization whiz. By pulling listings from PadMapper, he was able to chart the cost, per bedroom, of apartment rentals in the area.

Go to his site and zoom around the various neighborhoods, or take our word. In short: It's astronomical. Especially compared to the last time he put together such a map, back in June, 2011:

(2011 Boston Apartment Prices Map, via Jeff Kaufman)

Now, there are probably some seasonal differences at play here, given that June is a peak time for rental listings and January is a bit quieter. And the economy is better now than it was. (Some areas are likely a little off due to a lack of enough data.) But it's amazing to see how much more expensive (shown here in red) the Back Bay, Downtown, the Seaport, Cambridge, and even Charlestown have become.

The mayor's call for affordable housing for middle class families is a great idea, but we need to go beyond that and encourage developers to build more affordable rental units, too. The types of places that encourage young recent college grads to stick around, and not move way out to the suburbs or out of the region entirely. And we need to do it soon, because so much of our economy—technology and health care especially—depends on the raw young talent that Boston is famous for producing in our universities. If we can't hold on to them, we've lost our advantage.