A new analysis of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data by the UMass Donahue Institute and the Massachusetts Community & Banking Council shows the toll high home prices are taking on the Bay State’s Black and Brown communities, and the importance of building more housing in Greater Boston. 

The report, based on data reported by banks and lenders for loans they originated in Massachusetts in 2019, shows that Greater Boston Black, Latino and Asian homebuyers are denied mortgage loans at higher rates – 7.5 percent, 7.1 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively – than their white (3.6 percent) counterparts when the analysis controlled for debt-to-income ratios at or below 43 percent.  

This, the researchers said, appeared partly driven by the lower median incomes of buyers of color and the ever-shrinking pools of affordability in Eastern Massachusetts. 

Even worse, when these denials were analyzed, the most common reason researchers found was insufficient collateral – i.e. the home was appraising for less than the heated Boston-area market demanded the buyer pay.  

With the wild upswing in area home prices thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear these issues will have only gotten worse over the last 18 months. 

The report is just the latest in a mountain of evidence that local and state politicians have sleepwalked Massachusetts into a place where homeownership is rapidly becoming the preserve of the well-to-do. 

Thanks in part to anti-development suburbs and decades of arcane permitting processes in urban-core communities like Boston and Somerville, the natural, modest densification of popular areas hasn’t happened.  

Instead of single-family properties near train stations and business districts being replaced by three- and four-family apartment buildings, condominiums or townhomes, we have communities like Newton and West Roxbury – well-served by mass transit and highways but largely an endless sea of single-family homes. In both cases, the residents of these uniform blankets of single-family houses actively suffocate new development, leaving us with far too few for-sale homes and apartments for rent to meet demand. 

This report offers just the latest example of why Massachusetts needs radical change beyond the landmark Housing Choice zoning reform passed earlier this year. That law largely relies on communities to step up and densify themselves, something they’ve been unwilling to do for decades.  

As the Baker administration crafts regulations to implement a key provision of the Housing Choice law mandating greater density near MBTA stations, they must resist calls to keep the required zones modest where multifamily buildings are allowed by right. More development is desperately needed beyond the transit-oriented development that has already taken place. 

Both justice and the state’s economic competitiveness depend on it. 

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HMDA Data Shows Need for More Homes

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min