There’s no savior waiting in the wings for Massachusetts’ housing market. Instead, we have to build one ourselves.
As Banker & Tradesman reports in this week’s issue, housing inventory growth could be leveling off. Instead of rising steadily, pushed up by declining numbers of buyers, month-over-month growth in the number of active condominium and single-family listings statewide cooled off in August, according to Realtor.com data.
Why? In large part, it comes down to the fact that many sellers are also buyers – moving to a bigger or smaller house, or a new location as family and work situations change. Between a seemingly wobbly economy, a cooler market cutting down on fear of missing out, affordability concerns and an unusually large range of other factors, real estate agents have a smorgasbord of reasons to choose from to explain why any single homeowner in their list of prospects isn’t ready to sell right now.
This means, however, that inventory will stay tight. Traditional wisdom holds that a market needs four to six months’ worth of inventory to give buyers a fighting chance and keep home prices from being bid up further into the stratosphere. The most recent figures from the Massachusetts Association of Realtors showed only 1.4 months’ supply for single-families and 1.8 months’ supply for condominiums in July, when the number of active listings on the market hit its current 2022 high according to Realtor.com data.
You do the math.
This state of affairs also leaves Massachusetts in a tricky spot. It’s hard to imagine the current situation leading to anything other than a very slow build-up of unsold homes, absent another cataclysmic financial crisis.
This is where projects come in like those Steve Adams describes in his story in this week’s issue, or those hypothesized by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in its January report, “Rethinking the Retail Strip.”
If local officials want to do right by the majority of their residents who need affordable housing options and who don’t want to see their suburbs slowly fade away, they should be actively trying to encourage redevelopment of the tired commercial properties within their borders.
Launch planning processes to help the community reimagine what its single-story retail, office parks, empty lots near train stations and other properties could become.
Keep transit, walking and cycling front and center so that these new visions foster a low-carbon future.
Put the market to work to achieve affordability goals by maximizing the amount of developable land in town. This will keep a small number of developments from dominating the local market for new homes, giving them the power to set whatever price they want for new homes.
By doing so, and turning those plans into by-right zoning, they can eliminate a significant amount of a development’s up-front costs, creating the potential for cheaper housing.
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