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What will it take to make Massachusetts housing more affordable?

Why does Massachusetts struggle with affordable housing?
Why does Massachusetts struggle with affordable housing? 03:41

By Chris Tanaka, WBZ-TV

BOSTON -- Massachusetts routinely ranks as one of the most expensive states to live in, and housing is the reason why.

"We're a high-cost state, we have inflation working against us right now, incomes haven't been keeping pace with housing costs and there's just not enough homes to keep housing affordable," said Eric Shupin, Director of Public Policy for Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA). The organization advocates for more housing for low and moderate-income families.

So WBZ-TV is asking: just what is affordable?

"According to the federal government and most affordable housing programs, you should pay about 30% of your income towards housing costs, including rent, utilities, or if you're paying a mortgage payment," said Shupin.

But the problem with that is "in Massachusetts, more than half of all renters pay more than half of their income towards rent," he explained.

The reasons for the cost are many: inflation, land costs, labor, and materials. Even Boston's prosperity and affluence work against renters.

According to Boston's Office of Housing, an individual making $78,550 a year is considered 'low-income' when applying for income-restricted housing opportunities. Many middle-income earners are being pinched—making too much to qualify for affordable housing programs while facing competition from higher earners.

"We end up in a scenario where wealthy folks, the wealthiest residents of our city are directly competing with middle-income and working families for a very limited supply of housing," said Jesse Kanson Benanav, Executive Director of Abundant Housing Massachusetts.

"I've spoken to developers who've said we simply can't build middle-income housing in Boston and Massachusetts right now," Benanav said. 

His organization—like CHAPA---is fighting to grow housing stock. For their part, the city of Boston and the state government are also aggressively trying to tackle the issue with new policies to do so. 

A newly launched website, lists rent-limit and income-restricted properties. It's all a good start, but Shupin says more needs to be done.

"We need more resources. We need more homes, and all these things need to come together to make sure everyone is being served by affordable housing," said Shupin.

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