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Many Boston-area millennials expect to ‘always rent,’ survey says

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About 10 percent of residents ages 23 to 38 say that homeownership is out of reach due to downpayment costs, student debt, and other hurdles

A row of houses and apartment buildings with colorful exteriors. Shutterstock

About 10 percent of Boston-area residents between the ages of 23 and 38 expect to “always rent,” according to the newly released results of a survey that research and listings site Apartment List conducted.

These millennials say that the cost of a downpayment as well as other hurdles such as student debt and rocky credit histories are holding them back from the traditional benchmark of the American dream: homeownership.

The good news might be that the 10.5 percent of Boston-area millennials who say they will never be able to buy a home is below the national share of 12.3 percent and well below the shares in metros such as San Jose, St. Louis, Detroit, and San Francisco. See the chart below for a bigger breakdown.

The survey results underscore one of the meta-features of real estate in the Boston region: the high cost of for-sale housing. The median sales price for a Boston-area single-family was $605,000 in September, according to a report from real estate research firm the Warren Group and the Greater Boston Association of Realtors. The median condo price was $549,000. In core areas of Boston, such figures are much higher.

The reasons for the high costs are many and maybe familiar. They include zoning regs that have discouraged residential development (or have encouraged too much single-family development); poor planning on the part of policymakers over decades; horrible commutes that raise competition for housing that much closer to commercial centers; and population growth that could see the region tip over 5 million residents soon.

Another reason sometimes overlooked simply because it’s so obvious is that buying a home in the Boston area used to be less expensive; and a lot of the available housing was snapped up then long ago, freezing out subsequent generations. Some millennials here are feeling that reality acutely, according to the Apartment List survey.

“Without a dramatic turn of events,” the survey noted, “it appears unlikely that millennial homeownership will catch up with previous generations anytime soon.”