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Greater Boston Needs Thousands of New Homes to Keep Economy on Track

About 435,000 new units would comprise mostly multifamily homes and be located primarily in urban areas by the year 2040.

Greater Boston Needs Thousands of New Homes to Keep Economy on Track

Up to 435,000 new housing units would need to be created in the Metro Boston area by the year 2040 to keep the region's economy growing, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) said in a new report released Thursday.

The units would comprise mostly multifamily homes and be located, primarily, in urban areas, the MAPC said. The aim of the additional units is to attract younger workers to the region from elsewhere in the country to keep the economy growing in the Greater Boston area. The 435,000 new units are greater than the 305,000 new units needed in a "status quo" scenario, MAPC said. 

"More than a million of the region's workers will be retired by the year 2030," MAPC Executive Director Marc Draisen said in a statement Thursday. "To fill those jobs and grow the economy, we need to reverse the trends that see so many young workers leaving Metro Boston."

Attracting more young people to the region with the kinds of housing they prefer could potentially result in a "stronger region" with a total population increase of 12.6 percent, MAPC said. The population age 25-64 years would increase by 7 percent, according to the report. 

“This new report confirms the need for significant new multi-family housing if we want to attract young people and families and to grow our population,” Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki said in a statement. 

The following is a list of key findings from the MAPC report. 

  • If current trends continue, a wave of Baby Boomer retirements and a weak inflow of younger workers will result in little growth in the labor force and be a drag on the economy. If more young people are attracted and retained, however, the region’s labor force might grow by 7 percent.
  • Even under a slow-growth Status Quo scenario, there will be demand for 305,000 new housing units from 2010 to 2040, an increase of 17 percent. The "Stronger Region" scenario would require production of 435,000 new units.
  • Most of the new housing demand under either scenario will be among residents now younger than age 44. Residents now over 45 will need fewer housing units in 2020 than they do today due to outmigration and mortality.
  • Multifamily housing, both for-sale and rental units, will make up at least 48 percent as much as 62 percent of demand.
  • Even in suburban municipalities, demand for multifamily units will make up between 28 and 37 percent of total demand.
  • More than half of housing demand will be in urban communities under either scenario—as much as 56 percent in the "Stronger Region" scenario.
  • The number of school-age children in the region and in most municipalities peaked in 2000 and is likely to decline over the coming decades. The population aged 5 to 14 is projected to fall another 8-9 percent by 2020 and is not likely to fully rebound, even under the "Stronger Region" scenario. 

The projections, which were developed as part of MAPC’s forthcoming Regional Housing Plan for Metro Boston, will have broad utility for local housing plans and school enrollment projections, regional transportation planning efforts, and state programs focused on housing and workforce development, according to MAPC.

The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development adopted the Stronger Region scenario in 2012 as the basis for the Commonwealth’s multifamily housing production goal of 10,000 multifamily units per year, and that office is now working to coordinate local and state policies to support the achievement of the goal.

To see the data and the report, visit the MAPC Projections, 2013.

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