affordableHousing

Justin Steil, Maya Abood, Angel Jacome, Reed Jordan
MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Boston Rental Affordability 

Boston Back Bay Real Estate | Shutterstock | 2014

 

The following figures provide data on the number of renters by income category, the change in housing affordability over time, and the gap between affordable rental units available and the number of low-income renters.

Section 1: Renters by Income

The following figures show that the number of extremely low-income renters has grown by approximately 17% (from 54,000 to 65,000 renters) and that some neighborhoods, such as Roxbury and Mattapan, house a disproportionate number of extremely low-income tenants.

Figure 1.1: Renters by Income

In 2015, for the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metropolitan area, for a four person household, an extremely-low income (ELI) household had an income of less than $29,550 a year; a very-low income household (VLI) between $29,550-$49,250; a low-income household (LI) between $49,250-$69,700; a middle income household (MI) between $69,700-$118,200; and high income household (high) greater than $118,200.

Figure 1 shows the number of renter households in Boston by income for 2009 and 2015. In 2015 there were 65,100 extremely-low income households—households with incomes at or below 30% of the area median income—9,000 more than the 54,150 extremely-low income households six years earlier

The data come from the US Census Bureau, using the American Community Survey (ACS) for the 5-year periods of 2005-2009 (shown as the 2009 estimate) and 2011-2015 (shown as the 2015 estimate). The area median income categories come from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.1

Figure 1.2. Renters by Income and Neighborhood

 

Figure 1.2 shows the number of renter households in the five Census designated public use microdata areas in Boston in 2015 by household income category. For example, Mattapan and Roxbury have the highest number of extremely low-income households at about 18,700.

The data come from the US Census Bureau, using the American Community Survey (ACS) for the 5-year periods of 2005-2009 (shown as the 2009 estimate) and 2011-2015 (shown as the 2015 estimate). The area median income categories come from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Figure 1.3. Boston: Renters by Income and Race

 

Figure 1.3 shows the number of renter households in Boston by income and race in 2015. Households of color are disproportionately extremely-low and very-low income. In 2015, approximately 25% of extremely-low income households were headed by black Bostonians. Figures 1.3a-e below show the number of rent households in Boston neighborhoods by income and race in 2015.

The data come from the US Census Bureau, using the American Community Survey (ACS) for the 5-year periods of 2005-2009 (shown as the 2009 estimate) and 2011-2015 (shown as the 2015 estimate). The area median income categories come from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Figure 1.3a. Allston, Brighton, & Fenway: Renters by Income and Race

 

Figure 1.3b. Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Charlestown, East Boston, Central & South End: Renters by Income and Race

 

Figure 1.3c. Dorchester and South Boston: Renters by Income and Race

 

Figure 1.3d. Hyde Park & Jamaica Plain: Renters by Income and Race

 

Figure 1.3e. Mattapan & Roxbury: Renters by Income and Race

 

Section 2: Rental Affordability

The following figures show the gap between median income and median rent.  The distance between median income and rent has widened over the past six years, both because rents have increased and because incomes have declined.  Extremely low-income and low-income households are the most rent burdened. Among extremely low-income households, 75 percent pay more than half of their income on rent. 

Figure 2.1: Change in Median Income 2009-2015

 

Figure 2.1 shows how shows that since 2009 the inflation adjusted median gross rent  increased by almost 5 percent while the inflation adjusted median household income of renters decreased by about 4 percent.2  These changes have forced renters to spend a greater share of their income on rent and have left renters less income to spend on other necessities. 

The data come from the US Census Bureau, using the American Community Survey (ACS) results every year since 2009. Using the CPI inflation calculator, these numbers were converted to 2016 dollars. Using the income and rent from the year 2009 as a base, each subsequent year was measured against the base to create the index presented in the figure.

Figure 2.2: Rent-Burden by Income Group

Figure 2.2 shows the percentage of rent households in each income group that are either moderately rent burdened (paying between 30-50% of their monthly income on rent) or severely rent burdened (paying more than 50% of their monthly income on rent). Nearly 3 out of every 4 extremely low income and very low income households are rent burdened.  Among all Boston renters, more than half of tenants pay more than half of their income on rent.

The data come from the US Census Bureau, using the American Community Survey (ACS) for the 5-year periods of 2005-2009 (shown as the 2009 estimate) and 2011-2015 (shown as the 2015 estimate). The area median income categories come from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Section 3: The Gap
Figure 3.1: Gap in Rental Units for Extremely Low and Low Income Households

 

Figure 3.1 shows the supply and demand of affordable housing for extremely low income living in Boston in 2015. There are only 33,000 apartments that are both affordable to and available for the 65,100 extremely low-income households, leaving a shortage of nearly 32,000 units. Units affordable to ELI households were calculated as having a gross rent less than 30 percent of an ELI renter’s monthly income, and were considered available only if the unit is not being occupied by a household in a higher income category. For example, a unit that is affordable to an extremely-low income household of four but occupied by a low-income household of four is not considered available to the extremely-low income household. 

The data come from the US Census Bureau, using the American Community Survey (ACS) for the 5-year periods of 2005-2009 (shown as the 2009 estimate) and 2011-2015 (shown as the 2015 estimate). The area median income categories come from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

1 - HUD Income Limits Data | American Community Survey DataAmerican Community Survey Data via IPUMS

2 - According to the U.S. Census Bureau, gross rent is the monthly housing cost for renters, including the contract rent plus the estimated average monthly cost of utilities (electricity, gas, and water and sewer), and fuel (oil, coal, kerosene, wood, etc.) if these are paid by the renter.