In an effort to address the region’s worsening housing crisis, Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller has joined a coalition of 15 local mayors who are to committed to creating 185,000 new units of housing across the region by the year 2030.
“We need affordable housing for people to stay in Newton or to move here and to attract and retain businesses here,” Fuller said. “The key to developing housing will be to plan it wisely — such as by building around Newton’s mass transit stops. Each project needs to work for Newton.”
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council projects eastern Massachusetts will actually need 435,000 units of housing by 2040 to meet demand. Since 2010, the 15 cities and towns have added nearly 110,000 residents and 148,000 new jobs, while permitting only 32,500 new housing units. Intense competition for the limited available housing drives up prices, makes it difficult for people to find homes they can afford, and increases the potential for displacement.
Meanwhile, Greater Boston sale prices and rents are among the highest of any large metropolitan area across the country, and two-fifths of households are paying a burdensome amount toward housing, creating financial pressures and risks of displacement.
“Our region’s housing crisis is a prime contributor to our region’s hiring crisis,” said Newton-Needham Regional Chamber President Greg Reibman.“Employers here tell us that hiring is their biggest challenge and that housing, along with transportation, are the biggest impediments to filling jobs. We applaud Mayor Fuller and the other mayors for recognizing that this is a region-wide problem which required a region-wide solution.”
In addition to committing to increase production, the new Metro Mayors Coalition has agreed to a series of goals that aim to prevent displacement, preserve neighborhoods, reduce evictions and homelessness, promote mixed-use development and build a diversity of housing types for all income levels.
The coalition also includes Arlington, Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Quincy, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop. Work toward setting a regional goal began last year when the 15 mayors banded together to establish a Task Force to address the region’s worsening housing crisis.
“Housing production isn’t just a Boston problem and no one community can solve our housing crisis alone,” said Marc Draisen, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in Boston, which staffs and facilitates the Metro Mayors Coalition. “Home prices are rising throughout the region, and even as demand has grown, production has lagged. Today, these local and state leaders are stepping up to tackle the housing crisis head-on, because our residents can’t wait.”
These challenges are likely to intensify in the coming years. Metro Mayors Coalition communities are on track to add 235,000 net new jobs from 2015 to 2030; combined with the imminent retirement of the region’s baby boomers, this robust economic growth will entail hundreds of thousands of new workers entering the labor force. If recent trends continue, a growing share of those new workers will want to live near the core of the region, where they can be close to their jobs and all the amenities the area has to offer.
Meanwhile Newton has been notoriously slow in adding new housing but there is a possibility that could soon change.
Sixty-eight new apartments are presently under construction at Austin Street in Newtonville and 140 units are being built across the street at Washington Place. In addition, Northland Investment Corporation is proposing 860 units a part of a mixed-use project along Needham Street and Mark Development and Normandy Real Estate Partners are hoping to build 663 units adjacent to the Riverside MBTA station. Mark Development is also expected to propose more housing along the Washington Street corridor.
Although not part of the coalition, Needham has also been adding apartments at an accelerated rate. In addition to the 350 unit Charles River Landing, the 390 unit complex known as The Kendrick has just opened across the street from Charles River with another 136 units available across the highway at the new Modera Needham. Needham has also zoned the area behind Staples on Highland Ave. to accommodate up to 250 units.
With more housing - and more housing diversity - planners hope for a greater mix of prices. The current median price to buy a single family home this year in Newton through August was at $1.2 million according to MLS data. In 2015 it was at $1 million. This year a two-bedroom rental averages $2,362 a month.