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Explore Greater Boston’s Seven Housing Submarkets

New Data Tool: Greater Boston's Seven Housing Submarkets

From low-density suburbs to premium-priced urban districts to neighborhoods with a mix of small multifamily and single-family homes, neighborhoods in Greater Boston can look wildly different – even neighborhoods in the same city of town. What’s more, where you live can influence the opportunities available to you. Different types of neighborhoods have varying challenges and needs that require different policy responses.  

To help provide a way for local stakeholders to understand housing market diversity within the region and individual municipalities, MAPC classified housing in Greater Boston into seven distinct submarkets – neighborhoods with similar housing stock and market characteristics. These characteristics determine who can find, afford, and remain in suitable housing in that neighborhood. 

MAPC released the results of this research – along with an interactive website – during a virtual launch event on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. 

“Greater Boston is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, but when you think about all the places and neighborhoods in the region, it’s clear that it is not one monolithic housing market,” said MAPC Research Manager Jessie Patridge Guerrero at the research launch. There’s variation in density, in the size of homes, in the age of housing stock, in the availability of renter units, and certainly in prices. These factors influence who can live where and what challenges and opportunities exist for them. 

At the launch, we heard from a dynamic panel of speakers: Beyazmin Jimenez, Vice President of Abundant Housing MA; Jonathan Burch, Principal Planner at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP); and David Williams, Policy Outreach Director at Opportunity Insights. The panelists shared their insights into housing policy, potential uses for the data, pro-housing advocacy, and planning’s role in creating some of the problems we are now trying to solve.   

The Submarkets

Submarket 1

High-Density Urban, High Prices

Key Highlights

    • Premium-priced
    • Increasing home prices and rents
    • Declining numbers of renters

Submarket 2

High-Density Urban, Lower Prices

Key Highlights

    • Highest renter share
    • High rates of foreclosure and cash sales
    • Highest rate of business buyers
    • Rapid sale price escalation

Submarket 3

Moderate-Density Urban, Moderate Prices

Key Highlights

    • Oldest housing stock
    • Mix of single-family and small multifamily
    • Increasing home prices and rents

Submarket 4

Low-Density Urban-Suburban Mix, Lower Prices

Key Highlights

    • Older housing stock in suburbs and regional urban centers
    • Low density and housing costs
    • Minimal change in rents
    • Slowest population growth

Submarket 5

Low-Density Suburban, Highest Prices

Key Highlights

    • Premium-priced low-density suburbs
    • Large, older housing stock in very expensive single-family home neighborhoods
    • Low and declining renter share

Submarket 6

Low-Density Suburban, Mixed Prices

Key Highlights

    • Suburban edges with the newest housing stock and lowest home prices
    • Rapid increases in density, rents, and renters

Submarket 7

Low-Density Suburban, Moderate Prices

Key Highlights

    • Moderate-cost single-family suburbs
    • Newer housing stock
    • Few renters

The website expands on each submarket in more detail, summarizing for each: 

  • People by race, ethnicity, language, and age 
  • Public school performance and college attainment 
  • Access to jobs and unemployment 
  • Housing cost burden and home mortgage loans 
  • Legacy of redlining 

The urban planning professional has [historically] been on the wrong side of equity and the advancement of racial equity,” said Jimenez during the research launch. By addressing the history of redlining and racial segregation in our communities, we start to undo some of that history. So we are finding ways to figure out how our planning decisions today affect people tomorrow, and we have to be able to point at how we got here in order to undo some of those same practices.  

These detailed analyses start to reveal the common traits and needs in each submarket. Click here for detailed analyses of each submarket 

Policies

A one-size-fits-all approach to housing policy can’t meet the many and varied housing challenges facing Greater Boston. Reducing the cost of living, enabling access to suitable housing, and protecting housing stability will require different strategies in different places. 

“What we find when we work with local communities is...if they’ve got an issue, they want to talk to their neighbors,” said Burch. “But that isn’t necessarily the community that has the most similar experiences to the issue that you’re grappling with locally or the best solutions to be able to pull from to be able to address these issues." 

MAPC has begun identifying which housing strategies are most important for each submarket: for example, tenant protection ordinances and other housing stability protections are vital in places with a lot of renters—especially those where rents are increasing (like Submarket 1 – high density urban, high prices), but in more suburban submarkets (such as Submarket 7 – low density suburban, moderate prices), affordable housing production or strategies to increase density are more urgent.  

Click here to read about policy strategies by submarket. We want to ensure that the housing strategies we present here reflect the needs and challenges of your communities, so please join our MetroCommon housing policy workshops: Affordable Housing Preservation and Anti-Displacement, on March 24 at 1:30 p.m., and Housing Production, on March 16 at 1:30 p.m., or email us at research@mapc.org with your ideas. 

Submarkets in Your City or Town

Finally, we’ve provided an easy tool to figure out the housing types and related policy suggestions in individual municipalities. Website visitors can see the submarket breakdown in their municipalities, illustrated as the share of households living in each submarket within the municipality, and view housing strategy examples for each submarket.  

“Whether it’s about increasing access or ensuring there’s no displacement as neighborhoods change, I think being able to dive deep on that granular level can be very helpful because people understand their neighborhoods at that level,” said Williams. “Using the data and the research can highlight what really works, what drives better outcomes, what can create more housing access."  

See the housing submarket breakdown for every MAPC-region city and town here.  

Webinar

Miss the release? Learn more about the housing submarkets and policy ideas by watching our recorded webinar:

Looking for the presentation slides? Click here to download.