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Why you can't find a three-bedroom

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis October 28, 2013 09:46 AM

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Greater Boston rents are some of the highest in the country.

And while we may like to flatter ourselves into thinking our high rents are simply a reflection that everyone wants to live in the Boston area, the reality is not so rosy.

Sure, the Boston skyline is filled with cranes putting up new apartment towers. But most of these new deluxe digs are for the very well off who can afford hefty downtown rents.

Meanwhile, developers who want to build new apartments in the suburbs face an uphill battle against cranky NIMBYies who want to keep out all housing that might attract, of all things, families with children.

Yes, that might mean more children to educate, though you would think an youth infusion might be welcome in one of the most rapidly graying states in the country, with the median age in Massachusetts now around 40 and steadily climbing.  Moreover, none of these numbskulls thinks it through enough to also understand that family friendly housing might also mean more customers for local shops, restaurants and other businesses.

One popular tactic some of these small-town bean counters are using to keep those tiny troublemakers out is to pressure developers to keep apartments small, with no more than one or two bedrooms.

Here's a piece I recently wrote for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting where I examined this trend.

Developers who want to build three-bedrooms - and believe me, there is a market for larger rentals in our housing starved metro market - are being told by town officials in no uncertain terms to drop the idea or face an even longer and more grueling local approval process.

And whether you have kids or not, anyone who needs something more than overpriced two-bedroom is paying the price for this hostility to families and children who, of all things, actually need a place to live. Imagine that!

Maybe not so surprisingly then, just 6 percent of all apartments built under the Bay State's affordable housing law in the past decade had three or more bedrooms. That's compared to the overall market in the Northeast, where apartments with three or more bedrooms make up a quarter of the market, Census figures show.

Better late than never, state officials are finally starting to take notice of this trend, with plans to mandate that at least 10 percent of all rental units built under the Bay State's affordable housing law should have at least three-bedrooms.

Isn't this the American Dream, or at least one of the more popular versions of it, starting a family, working hard, and having the opportunity to buy or rent a decent place to live?

Something seems really rotten here. What's your take?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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