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Why Greater Boston rents won't ever go down

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis January 16, 2014 09:30 AM

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The Boston area is already one of the most expensive places in the country to rent an apartment or buy a condo.

But those sky-high rents and prices are set to only go higher given a looming apartment and condo crunch.

We need as many as 435,000 new apartments, condos and homes here in the Boston area over the next quarter century to meet demand and ensure the local economy keeps growing robustly, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council finds in a new report out this morning.

That's enough new units to house the entire city of Boston, population 636,479, and then some.

One reason the number is so big is that housing construction of all types has lagged now for decades, both inside I-495 and Route 128 and across the country as well.

However,  time for a reality check here. While the goal is a laudable one, it is hard to see how we can come anywhere close to building that many new apartments, condos and homes, at least at the current pace of construction.

The good news is that builders took out permits for more than 12,000 new homes, condos and apartments across the state through the first ten months of 2013.

About half were for single family homes, with other half for apartments and condos, U.S. Census Bureau stats show.

That was a significant increase over 2012, when just under 8,200 new hosuing units were approved by cities and towns across Massachusetts.

But here's the bad news. Those numbers represent residential construction across the entire state. And that is a far cry from the 15,000 to 20,000 new homes, apartments and condos that need to be built just in the Boston area alone, according to the MAPC study.

Barring a sweeping change in suburban and small-town culture that dominates much of the state, it will be hard, to say the least, to meet the MAPC's goals..

Just about every new apartment project approved in the suburbs features a long and drawn out permitting process, often with heated opposition from local officials and neighbors.

That's why I'm skeptical we can build enough new apartments to keep rents in check, though I hope I am wrong on this.

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

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

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