With the core cities of Greater Boston attracting young millennials, and aging suburban baby boomers seeking housing more appropriate to their status as empty-nesters, smaller housing units in both urban and suburban areas are becoming fashionable. Yet Boston and the region’s core cities have an undersupply of multi- unit housing while suburban communities increasingly have an oversupply of single- family housing. As such, the region is on a collision course with shifting demographic techtonics that will continue at least until 2030. Between 2010 and 2030, demographic projections suggest that Greater Boston will be home to 138,000 additional single-person households, 156,000 households with no more than three persons, but only 22,000 larger households of four or more persons. The evolving housing mismatch can be described briefly as follows:
While average household size has declined and Greater Boston’s population continues to age, its housing stock beyond Suffolk County remains dominated by the single-family home. Meanwhile, demand for multi-unit housing in all five counties has risen among aging baby boomers, millennials, working families, and low-income households—yet builder a long way from meeting this demand. Once the baby-bust generation passes through its child-rearing years, the demand for this type of smaller housing will likely be even greater. Clearly, the Greater Boston housing market must now plan for what will be an extraordinary shift in housing demand. Unfortunately, the cost of construction and zoning restrictions throughout the region make it exceptionally difficult to synchronize housing supply with housing demand.