2016 Greater Boston Housing Report Card Reflection | City of Ideas

Posted 12/01/2016 by Lucy Ellis, Program Associate, Neighborhoods & Housing

Residents of Greater Boston, from recent college graduates to young families, to the expanding elder population know that it is one of the most expensive regions in the United States in which to live and work. We’ve seen article after article in the news media over the last several years focusing on the high cost of living, the rising rates of family homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. The report card, released by The Boston Foundation in partnership with Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, has continued to confirm with hard data that indeed Boston is expensive––in fact only New York City and San Francisco have higher effective rents than Boston. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data for 2010 to 2014 –data which do not account for differences in living costs across metro areas– about 10.6% of Greater Boston families lived below the poverty line in 2014. Since the federal poverty level doesn't account for differences in the cost of living based on location, the 10.6% of families living in poverty in Boston could live anywhere in the country and still be considered living below the poverty level given their current income. What does the lack of accounting for cost of living mean in a region where the housing cost burden has risen 10.8% since 2000? A region where 50% of residents face the challenge of generally high expenses and specifically paying more than 30% of their income for housing?

 Researcher Barry Bluestone and his team at the Dukakis Center took on this question in the report card. They calculated a cost-of-living adjusted poverty threshold and found that while the traditional threshold  allows that 10.6% of families in Greater Boston live in poverty, under the adjusted threshold nearly one in six families (16.2%) are poor, almost 5% higher than the U.S. at large (11.5%).

Under the adjusted poverty standard 57,000 more families than reported by the U.S. Census Bureau are poor, bringing the total to approximately 163,000 families. If the adjusted threshold is expanded to include non-family households the percent of households with incomes falling below the poverty line is 25%. More than 50% of people living under the “traditional” poverty threshold in four of the five Greater Boston counties did not receive housing assistance.

So, you can see we have work to do to address the affordable housing deficit and poverty in Greater Boston, as the two go hand in hand.

If you haven’t read the report card, click here. It’s worth your time.


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