Priced Out: Push to make Mass. more affordable for young professionals

Young professionals are flocking to Boston for job opportunities, only to find they're priced out of the housing market here. Boston 25 News reporter Crystal Haynes talked to housing experts and lawmakers about what it will take to keep those professionals here.

"I always thought about buying a house. I always wanted like that white picket fence and my own yard, driveway," Mattapan resident Tashaea Boswell-Clark told Haynes.

Boswell-Clark has a banking career, is pursuing a degree in finance and is following her grandmother's advice to save, save, save.  Her grandmother moved to Mattapan from Jamaica, bought a home and raised three generations there.

"I see my grandmother in her yard, building her flowers and things like that, so it's very inspirational, but then when I look at it for me, I'm just like, 'I don't know if this is possible,'" Boswell-Clark said.

According to Realty Hop's housing affordability index for June 2019, the average single-family home price in Boston is $645,000. It would take 58% of the average household income to cover housing costs alone.

"When you see the sticker price for these homes, what's your first reaction?" Haynes asked Boswell-Clark.

"I can't afford this! I don't know how I would be able to get this money. Will I have enough for a down payment? Will my credit be good enough to even get approved for a loan? And just all those questions arise, and it's a bit discouraging," she answered.

Dr. Barry Bluestone with Northeastern University says his team's latest Greater Boston Housing Report Card highlighted the struggle for graduate students and new professionals.

"They're making $15,000 and they're paying $14,000 in rent. Doesn't leave a lot for food," Dr. Bluestone said.

Dr. Bluestone says a booming job front has drawn more young people to work in Boston, but the lack of housing and construction costs have created a crisis.

"For the teachers, the young graduate student, the intern or resident at one of our medical institutions, that's a real problem," Dr. Bluestone added.

According to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Greater Boston needs to build 435,000 new units of housing to keep up with the growing economy.

Dr. Bluestone says the type of units matter; they can't simply be pricey homes that sit empty as investments for the wealthy.

He believes the state needs a housing revolution, and it should focus on building alternative housing options like millennial villages and micro-housing. He says relaxing some zoning laws would also help.

But State Senator Eric Lessor believes the answer lies 100 miles west of Boston on the Mass. Pike in Springfield, where the median home cost is $154,500.

"We have a lot of housing in Massachusetts. And not everywhere is as expensive as metro Boston," the Longmeadow Democrat told Haynes.

Lessor says telecommuting from Western Mass. could be the solution to the housing crunch out east, and he wants to pay people to do it. Lessor filed a bill that would give telecommuters up to $10,000 to live in Western Mass. and work in Boston.

"It's not sustainable, and frankly the businesses are going to leave Boston eventually if they can't find any employees who can afford to work there," Lessor said.

The city of Boston recently filed a bill that would give the city more control over development by allowing the city to increase the amount they charge developers for zoning relief. That money would be put back into affordable housing.

Mayor Marty Walsh says he hopes the "home rule petition" will pave the way for thousands more units of affordable housing.

MORE -- Boston 25's Priced Out series:

The housing crisis in the Boston area and who is working to fix it
Pressure mounts on suburbs to find affordable housing solutions
Group says 'Yes In My Backyard' to ease Boston housing crisis
Micro-housing offers solution for Boston's homeless