Hey, Boston-area friends: given how quickly housing news/housing-related issues move, I wanted to drop a few facts here before that long-simmering and long-referred-to article-in-progress I’ve been working on eventually makes its way into the world.
A few bullet points:
1. If you live in the Boston area, consider backing/advocating for/voting for those interested in some form of rent control.
2. Nationally, a vast majority of new housing is now going to the well-off & home-ownership rates for Af-Americans are at a 30 year low. (And this is to say nothing of the combination of cost-burdened home-owners (47% of all home-owners in L.A.!!!!), rent-burdened renters, and the limited housing supply — the national average seems to currently run somewhere around a three month supply? — across the country.) An intervention of some kind is warranted.
3. From a report issued last year: “In 2015, not one single home mortgage loan was issued for African-American and Latino families in the Seaport District and the Fenway, two Boston neighborhoods with thousands of new luxury housing units.”
4. While this non-sale of luxury apartments is happening, there are still ‘red-flag’ transactions happening (i.e., apartments being sold to shell corporations for investments/other actors for money laundering purposes.) The city is now part of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, but, still.
5. From the Massachusetts Housing Partnership: “Just 5 cities accounted for 45.7 percent of all loans to black borrowers in MA in 2017. Black borrowers received no home-purchase loans in 129 of the state’s 351 cities and towns and only a single loan in 50 communities.”
6. When Tito Jackson was talking about the average median income of AfAm families in Metro Boston being $8 and the general commentariat (including the current Mayor) expressed mystification at the thought — these dynamics are part of the reason why.
7. But this is getting away from the main point: you don’t develop a community away from itself because money needs some place to go. You work to ensure that a city is a place where everyone belongs. And rent control can be a part of that.
8. Look at some of the data that looked at the end of rent control in Cambridge and you can see why that could well be the case: https://economics.mit.edu/files/9760
8a. On “the eve of rent control’s elimination in 1994, controlled units typically rented at 40-plus percent below the price of nearby noncontrolled properties.”
8b. It gets a little wonky and nuanced after that, but one obvious takeaway is that tenant turnover went up once Cambridge got rid of rent control — and it’s why we see items like this flagged by CL/VU today: https://twitter.com/CityLife_Clvu/status/1113169092859584519
9. People have also said A Lot of Ridiculous Stuff about attempts to fix this problem, too.
9a. For instance: when Boston attempted to pass the Jim Brooks Act, one person opposed to it said, “The [Jim Brooks Act] will kill jobs … with the promise [of giving] tenants a lifetime sinecure.” (The Act was about simply making people aware of evictions.)
9b. Or — when Amazon decided against having HQ2 in NYC — a developer said this: https://therealdeal.com/…/lichtenstein-on-amazon-pullout-w…/
10. About 20% of Boston’s housing stock is public, but that doesn’t mean that the city can’t work towards producing more while making sure that the housing that’s out there already remains accessible. (I’m aware of the North End announcement, but I still feel the city can do more.)
11. For what it’s worth: this dynamic also strikes me as something that YIMBY/NIMBY folks overlook in their framing of the issue, too.