There’s not much white space in Barry Bluestone’s monthly planner. May 14: keynote speech to the Mass­a­chu­setts Mayors Asso­ci­a­tion on the state economy and stag­nant pop­u­la­tion growth. May 20: chair the World Auto Round­table in Switzer­land, spon­sored by the Inter­na­tional Labour Orga­ni­za­tion of Geneva. May 22: on to Rome to address The Center for Inter­na­tional Social Studies of Rome, on the topic of “Obama Economics.”

We’re pretty busy,” says Blue­stone, a leading eco­nomic expert in housing and the auto industry and the founding director of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy. “Hey, look at this,” he adds, picking up the latest issue of the Mass Law Review. The lead article focuses on affordable-​​housing leg­is­la­tion his center helped draft and pass in 2005.

What is your cur­rent push to create home-​​price insur­ance through fed­eral leg­is­la­tion?
We’ve been working with the National Asso­ci­a­tion of Real­tors on a plan to create leg­is­la­tion for home-​​price insur­ance. It’s an effort the Dukakis Center has coor­di­nated with housing experts in greater Boston.

How would home-​​price insur­ance work?
The idea is that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would insure new home­buyers who pur­chase a house within 18 months of the law taking effect against a pos­sible drop in prop­erty value. We hope this would pro­vide first-​​time buyers with an incen­tive. The idea is in its pre­lim­i­nary stages, but if suc­cessful, it would come through Con­gress or the president.

If a form of home­buyer insur­ance passes, how do you see it changing the housing and eco­nomic pic­ture?
Since 2007, we’ve seen a steady decline in home values, and yet rents have been rising nation­ally. This is pre­cisely because the own­er­ship market is in so much trouble; young people who would nor­mally be con­verting from rentals are leery of buying because they want to see if housing prices will fall fur­ther. If we had a leg­isla­tive guar­antee on home values, it might serve as a great incen­tive for people to start buying again, and also free up some rental property.

You cowrote a Boston Globe op-​​ed, “The end of the McMan­sion,” with Ted Carman, pres­i­dent of Con­cord Square Plan­ning and Devel­op­ment, empha­sizing the need for housing that matches the needs of the next wave of young home­buyers.
That’s right. We antic­i­pate a modest increase in the number of younger people seeking to buy houses. These will tend to be younger fam­i­lies seeking more modest homes—not the typ­ical demo­graphic seeking larger, expen­sive homes.

You have been a strong pro­po­nent of afford­able housing devel­op­ment. What’s hap­pened since you helped pass the state Smart Growth Zoning Laws in 2004 and 2005 (Chapter 40R and 40S) that encourage cities and towns to take up the chal­lenge?
To date, 28 com­mu­ni­ties in the state have adopted the leg­is­la­tion and set aside parcels of land. What we did was offer incen­tives to com­mu­ni­ties to des­ig­nate land near trans­porta­tion hubs for more afford­able development.

Your center is due to release its sev­enth Housing Report Card this Sep­tember.
The Center for Urban and Regional Policy has pro­duced a Housing Report Card in con­junc­tion with the Boston Foun­da­tion and Cit­i­zens Housing and Plan­ning Asso­ci­a­tion for seven years. Now, as the Dukakis Center, we are con­tin­uing the effort, which focuses on housing pro­duc­tion in 161 cities and towns, and tracks trends in housing prices and rents. It’s impor­tant to con­tinue our vig­i­lance, because, as the economy recovers, the need for afford­able housing will con­tinue to grow. The over­ar­ching trend is that prices exploded between 1995 and the fall of 2005; since then, home prices have been falling, and recent num­bers sug­gest they will con­tinue to decline in Greater Boston for most housing segments.

Since the Center for Urban and Regional Policy was renamed the Dukakis Center last November, how has life changed for your group?
Being asso­ci­ated with Mike and Kitty Dukakis has added more luster to the Center for Urban and Regional Policy. Adding their names to the center is a won­derful cul­mi­na­tion to the work we do. Michael and Kitty have a long his­tory of devo­tion to public ser­vice; these people are real heroes to us.

How will the Dukakis Center trans­late its research efforts to the com­mu­nity?
Our aim is to con­tinue to develop pro­grams for the neigh­bor­hoods next door to North­eastern. The uni­ver­sity has a respon­si­bility to work with other orga­ni­za­tions in the neigh­bor­hood to assure that all those who live and work in the com­mu­nity benefit.

How does your work as cochair of the Stony Brook Ini­tia­tive think tank help the com­mu­ni­ties around North­eastern?
The Stony Brook Ini­tia­tive is a university-​​community part­ner­ship. Our center is involved in two impor­tant projects. One, headed by Laurie Dop­kins, senior research asso­ciate, involves a total assess­ment of the work that fac­ulty, staff and stu­dents are doing for the Stony Brook com­mu­ni­ties of Mis­sion Hill, Rox­bury, the South End, and the Fenway. The second project, funded by the Boston Foun­da­tion, assists com­mu­nity and neigh­bor­hood asso­ci­a­tions with the work they do. We want to help them with their missions.