Key takeaways from Harvard’s latest housing report

by Michael M. Mazek


While the state of housing in the U.S. has generally improved over the last 30 years, the latest report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) of Harvard University highlights some areas of concern as well.

Since the Center’s first State of the Nation’s Housing report in 1988, significant strides have been made in the U.S. housing market, the report’s authors explained. Homebuilders added more than 40 million new residences in the last 30 years, making room for an additional 27 million households. Owning a home is still affordable, too, perhaps even more so now than in the late-80s: Based on JCHS data, Bloomberg noted that the average homeowner’s mortgage payments were lower in 2017 than in 1987, after accounting for inflation.

However, the bright spots that have developed since then have not come without serious concerns. Homeownership is less common today than it was 30 years ago, the JCHS report pointed out. So is the mere existence of an adequate supply of affordable housing in many of the nation’s population centers. The high cost of labor, land and materials have hindered homebuilding in many areas, and therefore made the right house harder to find.

The housing trends discussed in the 2018 JCHS report often varied considerably depending on location, property type, price range and many other factors. Here are a few highlights from the study distilled down on a local level.

  • Real home prices increased fastest in the highest-cost metro areas, including Boston. Between the top 10 U.S. cities with the highest housing costs, which includes Boston as well as New York, San Francisco and Seattle, real home prices have grown 67 percent since 2000. Real prices are adjusted for inflation, meaning housing costs in these areas have risen faster than the national average cost of living. However, even in the highest-cost markets, housing expenses are still below their modern peak reached around 2006. While rapid price appreciation poses problems for buyers, it can benefit property owners who are hoping to sell or refinance.
  • Boston has one of the most serious shortages of low-income rental units available. The 2018 JCHS report found that while most cities faced a considerable shortage in their low-income housing and rental markets, Boston was among the most severe. As of 2016, the JCHS estimated that Boston “had no more than 47 units available for ever 100 extremely low-income renter households.”

Read the full report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies here.

Read More Related to This Post

Join the conversation

Oops! We could not locate your form.