Real Estate News

Can Cambridge and Somerville slow gentrification amid sky-high home prices?

Two of the most expensive places to live Greater Boston are looking to make their communities a little more affordable to buyers of modest means.

Josh Reynolds/Boston Globe A newly renovated condo, which comes with the chance at a free electric BMW, overlooks the neighborhood near Davis Square in Somerville.

Two of the most expensive places to live Greater Boston are looking to make their communities a little more affordable to buyers of modest means.

A panel of more than two dozen Somerville officials and residents are brainstorming ways to help buyers of more limited means and to get a handle on gentrification as real estate values soar.

Meanwhile, Cambridge is ready to triple the amount of money developers who building labs and office buildings in the city have to contribute towards affordable housing, a move that could bring in millions of dollars more over the next few years.

“Maintaining some economic diversity is really a common concern in communities where home prices are dwarfing the growth in income for people who have lived there historically,’’ said Clark Ziegler, executive director of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, a nonprofit that works with the state to increase affordable housing stock.

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The price of a home in Cambridge rose nearly 12 percent in June, to just under $1.4 million, according to real estate data firm and publisher, The Warren Group.

Somerville saw single-family prices skyrocket in June by over 50 percent, to $855,000. Through the first six months of the year, Somerville prices weighed in at a still lofty $621,600, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reports.

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See inside the most expensive home in Somerville, sold in April for more than $1.7 million:

Somerville Sets New Record for Most Expensive Home Sale

The home sold at a price of $520 per square foot. MLS PIN

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There is hardwood flooring throughout much of the home. MLS PIN

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The kitchen boasts granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. MLS PIN

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The open-plan dining room measures about 12 feet by 12 feet. MLS PIN

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There is a gas fireplace in the living room. MLS PIN

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Somerville condo prices hit $552,500 in June, up 12 percent from last year, according to the real estate group.

In Somerville, a Sustainable Neighborhoods Working Group has been meeting over the last few months to discuss ways of heading off a wave of gentrification in Somerville.

The group is exploring ways Somerville might be able to offer financial assistance to low-income home buyers. Another idea being explored is allowing smaller – and less expensive – homes and condos to be built.

Cambridge wants to triple the current linkage fee on new commercial buildings – of $4.58 per square foot – to $12. The millions raised by the move would help pay for ongoing subsidies for roughly 1,100 affordable units across the city.

Somerville’s rising prices, in turn, echo what happened years ago when Cambridge values started taking off, Ziegler noted.

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Somerville, though, at least has the advantage of learning from Cambridge’s successes and mistakes over the years.

“They are later to the game,’’ Ziegler said. “What is happening to Somerville now is what happened to Cambridge farther back.’’

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