Feb 13, 2024 - News

Boston metro area vacancies among lowest in 20 years

Cutline: Data: Census Bureau; Note: Only includes vacant housing units that are for sale; Chart: Axios Visuals
Cutline: Data: Census Bureau; Note: Only includes vacant housing units that are for sale; Chart: Axios Visuals

Just 0.4% of Boston metro area homes were vacant and for sale at the end of 2023, per the latest quarterly census data.

Why it matters: The percentage of homes that are vacant is one way to gauge the tightness of the housing market, Axios' Matt Phillips writes.

What's happening: Home vacancies in Greater Boston have hovered below 1% for most of the last decade.

The big picture: Low inventory is enticing U.S. homebuilders to ramp up new construction, Axios' Nathan Bomey reports.

  • U.S. homeowner vacancies in the fourth quarter remained near the lowest on record, at 0.9%.

Yes, but: Experts say the nation needs to build a mix of housing, and more of it, to overcome a major home shortage.

Zoom in: Permits for new housing construction increased in Greater Boston over the last decade, but the region's housing stock remains limited and expensive.

  • "Streetcar" suburbs such as Newton, Dedham and Arlington permitted the least, and suburban residents in several communities have fiercely opposed the state's efforts to boost multi-family housing near train stops over the past couple of years.
  • There's one major exception among "streetcar" suburbs: Medford permitted the highest percentage wise among all Massachusetts cities and towns, per the housing report card.

Meanwhile, in Boston and other major cities, plans to add much-needed housing include redeveloping old office space.

  • At least three development firms applied to convert eight downtown office buildings under the city's office-to-residential conversion program.
  • The program offers developers who pursue the conversions a tax abatement of up to 75% of the fair market assessed residential value for 29 years.
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