01 Jun WickedLocal.com: Rents rise faster than incomes, expenses – housing shortage, real estate market to blame?
Davis had also benefitted from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program which was also administered by Metro Housing and provided assistance to those who lost their jobs or income, struggled to make rent, mortgage, or utilities payments, and/or were at risk of becoming homeless due to the pandemic. Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development stopped accepting applications to ERAP April 15.Barely making it in Massachusetts
“I’ll have two months to figure things out and may have to get a second job,” said Davis.
Davis is frustrated and said she can’t help feeling guilty about having children with the current state of the country because expenses continue to rise but her salary remains the same.
“You shouldn’t just be getting by in life,” said Davis. “Rents have to come down. Expenses need to come down.”
She has been searching unsuccessfully for another, cheaper place to live. Compounding her worry: With no savings, she doesn’t know how she would come up with first and last month rent plus a security deposit. At some places she’s seen, that totals close to $10,000.
“I’m doomed if I do and I’m doomed if I don’t,” said Davis.
Why are Massachusetts rents rising?
Rachel Heller, chief executive officer at Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association blames the rising rents on the housing shortage and the tight real estate market .
“This is really because our housing production is lacking. We produce about half the number of homes we did 30 years ago. As the population grows and housing stock does not keep up, home prices and rents are rising faster than people’s incomes,” said Heller.
According to a 2021 report released by the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker, the commonwealth needs 200,000 new homes by 2030 to support residents and stabilize home prices and rents.
Heller hopes the new state law requiring the 175 communities served by the MBTA to zone areas for multifamily housing will increase the affordable housing stock, otherwise she said home prices and rents will continue to rise.
Douglas Quattrochi, executive director of MassLandlords.net which has more than 2,400 paying members, said his organization’s focus is education.
“We want them to do right by renters and think about what impact a rent increase would do,” said Quattrochi.
There are myriad factors driving rent increases – inflation is pushing up costs for landlords and the pandemic has held rents static for several years. Now, some are scrambling to close the gap between revenue and expense.
“We advise landlords not to raise rents all at once because renters may not have the income to go up as fast as the rents go up,” said Quattrochi.
He recommends landlords talk to their renters before raising the rent. He also advises them to keep pace with inflation which is causing taxes, water bills and insurance to rise.
Quattrochi said according to BostonPads, vacancy rates are down about 1% and four and five bedroom apartments are up 4% compared to pre-pandemic.
Rent control: The landlord’s bugbear
Quattrochi warns landlords that rent control could reappear in the Bay State.
“There are 10 times as many renters as there are landlords which ultimately will result in a policy response,” he said.
According to Quattrochi, rent control would help people who need a place to live, but could have impacts on the quality and quantity of housing.
He would like to see more rental assistance as well as more zoning in communities for affordable housing.
“If I could waive a magic wand and have 18 months of rental assistance forever, I would do that,” said Quattrochi. “If you help a renter pay rent, you help a landlord.”
He said he believes 30% to 50% of landlords who are increasing rents own many units and don’t want to listen to his organization’s advice to raise rents incrementally.
How to find an affordable place to live
Alisa Gardner-Todreas, director of housing programs for Metro West Collaborative Development helps Massachusetts residents looking for affordable housing or financial assistance for rent, food and utilities.
“We encourage folks to cast a wide net when looking for affordable housing units,” said Gardner-Todreas. “If they only want to stay in Belmont, it will be a long time before one opens up. If they are willing to go to surrounding towns, they will find something sooner.”
According to Gardner-Todreas, there are about 2,000 people on the free Ready Renter program list offered by Metro West Collaborative Development. This program provides anyone on the list with information about available affordable housing units and how to apply. It also gives property owners the opportunity to fill their vacant affordable units through a lottery.
As of May 24, the following properties listed on Housing Navigator Massachusetts are accepting applications for upcoming lotteries and openings:
- Alexan Kingston in Kingston, apply by May 31
- Sanderson Place in Sunderland, apply by June 29
- Brewster Woods in Brewster, apply by July 1
Future subsidized housing developments
Metro West Collaborative Development is working with municipalities such as Hudson and Newton where there are opportunities to build more subsidized housing through funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and other sources.