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Building the Future: MAPC’s MassBuilds Shows Past, Present, and Future Development

Metropolitan Boston needs to build an average of 16,000 new homes per year to meet projected demand. But between 2010 and 2017, we averaged just over 10,500 units per year. Ten percent of homeowners and 25 percent of renters in Metro Boston pay more than half of their income on housing. It’s clear that we’re in the midst of a housing crisis.

But there’s more to the story than that. Where are new units being built? Are they affordable? What communities are seeing a lot of commercial development but not as much housing development? Where and how are communities changing due to new housing or businesses?

It’s hard to look at development from both a regional perspective and a local perspective. That’s why MAPC created MassBuilds, a visual database of development in the Greater Boston region. It’s fast becoming one of the most comprehensive databases of past, present, and future development in the area. As it grows, it will only become more valuable.

MassBuilds has existed for several years, but it’s more important now than ever: The information will help inform projections (or forecasts) of development, employment, and household demographics in the future. These projections will be used to allocate over $100 million of federal transportation funds each year, to plan transit service updates, forecast water needs, model future energy demand, and create economic incentive programs, among other state and regional initiatives.

That’s why it’s important to make sure our data is as comprehensive as possible: the more data points MassBuilds has, the better the projections.

Tracking and anticipating development across the region comes from disparate data sources and multiple municipal planning departments. To make the database as accurate as possible, MAPC relies on municipal records, municipal data stewards who edit and add development data quarterly, news articles, development websites, and suggestions from the public.

The result is a living library powered by a community of data stewards, web developers, and citizens. Anyone can go to the website and track planned or past developments and see town-by-town trends in aggregate, over time. The database includes specific details about each development, including information such as year of completion, commercial area, number of housing units, and proximity to public transit. All data is exportable in .csv and .shp file formats.

In recent months, the MAPC Digital Services team has been working to update MassBuilds to enhance the user experience and make it as easy as possible to find and comprehend the most relevant data. Right now, town data stewards are working to update listings in their communities.

But to make the information as accurate as possible, we want you to weigh in. Tell us about proposed development or new construction that we missed. Let us know if something we have listed as “Planning” is actually under construction. Fill in missing information on the numbers of stories or parking spaces. All of these data points will effect decisions made by MAPC, the state, and maybe even your town. Make sure that your community is represented accurately.

How to Make Changes

It’s easy to suggest changes to the site: just click the navigation bar in the top right corner of the MassBuilds site and create a login. To update an existing development, you can propose an edit by clicking on the development and then clicking the “Edit” button. To add a new development, click the blue “Create Development” button in the right-hand menu. When adding a new development, please be precise and include as much information as possible!

Changes won’t appear right away – suggestions and edits are moderated and verified by MAPC staff before they’re added to MassBuilds.

For more information and FAQ on MassBuilds, please visit www.massbuilds.com/about. Click here for video tutorials on signing up, submitting a new development, and using the search filters.