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Boston region adding jobs much faster than housing, report says

Meanwhile, the City of Boston is nearing a population peak not seen since the 1950s

An aerial shot of the Boston skyline and the region beyond at sunset. Shutterstock

Officials in the Boston area permitted an average of 2.3 new housing units per 1,000 residents from 2008 to 2018, according to a new report from real estate listings and research site Apartment List.

At the same time, though, the region slapped on 5.8 jobs per 1,000 residents, meaning that 2.5 jobs were added for every new housing unit in the Boston region.

Such a discrepancy, of course, underscores a major reason the area’s housing prices and rents are so high: Too many new residents for the existing housing supply, whatever the pace of new development—or, as the Apartment List report put it, “the metro is suffering from an undersupply of new construction.”

In this, the Boston region is similar to other fast-growing, housing-starved metros such as New York and San Francisco. Unsurprisingly, those same areas—and Boston—have some of the highest prices and rents in the nation. (A new Zumper report for August pegs the City of Boston’s one- and two-bedroom median rents as each among the five highest in the U.S., for instance.)

The Apartment List report, too, comes the same week as the Boston Planning and Development Agency predicts that Boston proper’s population could hit 760,000 by 2030, a high reminiscent of the 1950s and due largely to immigration. This suggests a further worsening of the regional housing crunch.

The good news recently is that much of the area’s new development has been of the much-needed multifamily variety. Since 2006, multifamily units have accounted for 58 percent of housing permits in the region, Apartment List said, compared with 27 percent from 1990 to 2005.

Still, the Boston region lags in terms of housing development. There are myriad reasons for this. One of the starkest is the region’s patchwork of zoning regulations, with each town or city operating independently of each other, whatever the interconnectedness of the metro. Recent moves in Dedham, Arlington, and Saugus to restrict or at least slow development highlight this.