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Boston’s slowing population growth won’t translate into lower housing costs

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Here’s why

Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/

The latest Census data shows that the amount of newcomers to the five counties comprising the Boston region declined for the third straight year in 2016. And, while 25,000 people did settle here last year, that sum is down by nearly half since 2013.

In short, the region’s population growth is slowing.

That begs the question: Will the slowdown lead to dips in home prices and rents—or at least to a concomitant slowdown in increases?

Meh. Probably not.

The logic is supposed to go like this: The region’s real estate is so expensive because there is such high demand for it amid limited supply because so many people keep settling here. With fewer people settling here, the demand will ebb and that supply won’t be so limited anymore.

Except! There’s already too little housing even without the population growth. In other words, were you to wall off the Boston area with its population as of today, that population would still be scrambling for decent digs at prices that make 95 percent of the rest of America blanch.

Fewer newcomers won’t solve that. Nor, at least in the short term, will the plethora of new apartments and condos spilling onto the Boston market in particular. As the Globe’s Tim Logan points out, the supply of for-sale housing “in nearby inner suburbs ... remains historically low.”

Give it time, perhaps. If the slowdown in population growth continues in the region, and the pace of construction continues as well, prices and rents might come down significantly at some point. Cheers.