Jan 3, 2023 - Politics

3 trends to watch in Boston in 2023

Illustration of the year 2022, with a keyhole for a zero, which zooms in so you can see through the keyhole to the year 2023.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Greater Boston faces new challenges this year when it comes to housing, transit and small businesses. Here’s what to keep an eye on.

🏠 1. Housing

The U.S. rental market is starting to cool off, but that likely won't bring prices down for renters in major cities like Boston.

  • Boston rents for the first time exceeded San Francisco prices this year, ranking only behind New York.
  • Blame the region’s supply crunch and zoning restrictions, which favor single-family home construction, Crystal Chen, a Zumper spokesperson, told CNBC.
  • The construction of luxury apartments, instead of more affordable options, only skews the median rent higher, Chen added.

Zoom out: All eyes are on Maura Healey and how the incoming governor will respond to local proposals to adopt rent stabilization.

  • While Healey continues to say it should be “up to communities to decide,” those local bills need legislative approval and the governor’s signature to pass.
  • In the past, she has signaled that she wouldn’t sign a rent control bill if one reaches her desk.

🚃 2. The T

The Green Line extension has reached Tufts University’s campus, the Orange Line isn’t on fire and there hasn’t been a major derailment in months.

Yes, but: The MBTA still struggles to hire dispatchers six months after federal transportation inspectors called on the agency to fill the labor shortage.

Plus: The MBTA still runs far slower than it used to, and it remains to be seen when speed reductions will end, the Boston Globe reports.

The incoming Healey administration has an opportunity to reshape MassDOT, starting with the appointment of a new MBTA general manager.

🛍 3. Small biz

Small businesses still struggle with inflation, vacancies and a looming recession as they enter 2023.

Flashback: Boston lost several restaurants last year, from 50Kitchen to Gourmet Dumpling House, in part because of retirements and in part because of commercial rents, labor shortages and skyrocketing food prices.

  • And it’s not just restaurants. Fitness studio Trillfit closed its Mission Hill location last month, citing rental prices.

The bottom line: These business owners are in for a tough year without the promise of the pandemic relief funding delivered in previous years.

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