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real estate now | Scott Van Voorhis

Boston is a hot spot for gentrification

Highlights from the Boston Real Estate Now blog.

The Hub is undergoing the most rapid gentrification of any city in the country, a new study by the Cleveland Fed finds.

More than a quarter of all Bostonians now live in formerly low-income neighborhoods that have since been gentrified, many over the bubble years of the early and mid-2000s.

And that number is likely higher now — the study doesn’t go past 2007, with prices once again back or having blown past previous peaks in a number of neighborhoods.

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I spotted the item on John Ford’s Boston Real Estate Blog, which offers an interesting take.

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As Ford’s blog points out, the study offers up a somewhat controversial assessment, seeming to argue that gentrification isn’t all that bad for longtime neighborhood residents.

“A look at the data suggests that gentrification is actually beneficial to the financial health of the original residents,” the Cleveland Fed study finds.

Well as long as they can still afford to live there, that is.

Boston is also way ahead of everyone else when it comes to upscaling its neighborhoods.

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While more than a quarter of Hub residents live in gentrified neighborhoods, in Washington, second on the list, it’s 19 percent, followed by New York, Tampa, and Atlanta at 18 percent.

Seattle? Just 9 percent.

Rising rents costly now and later

Not only are rising rents bad for apartment dwellers, it is making the dream of home ownership increasingly unattainable for millions of Americans.

That is one of several findings in a new study released by the nonprofit Demand Group, a joint venture of the Conference Board and Nielsen.

As many as 31 percent of renters are forking over 30 to 50 percent of their pay on rent. And a quarter find themselves signing over more than half of their paychecks to their landlords.

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Yet while large numbers of renters still hope to buy some day, they may wind up finding themselves locked out of the market at a time when housing prices have yet to fully recover in some communities, the report finds.

More than 74 percent of those surveyed argued that home ownership should be “an important long-term goal” while an even higher number, 77 percent, agreed with the statement that housing is “an excellent investment.”

Yet nearly half of would-be homeowners who say they hope to buy in the next five years have not saved enough to make that a reality.

“Many still have aspirations beyond their means,” the study notes.

Another way to choose a hometown

Most real estate surveys of the best towns to buy a home in take a winners/losers approach based on where prices are rising or falling.

NerdWallet looked at things a bit differently and came up with some surprising results.

The San Francisco-based financial advice website, using an array of federal and market stats, went on the hunt for vibrant, growing towns across Massachusetts that are ideal for homeowners.

The survey zeroed in on towns with high homeownership rates and a comfortable fit between home prices and what residents are actually earning.

Topping the list was Wilmington, a town of 22,350 of 17 miles north of Boston that hardly ever pops up on anyone’s list. The median home price in Wilmington is $378,900.

The town boasts a home ownership rate of nearly 90 percent, tops in Massachusetts. Moreover, median housing costs in Wilmington are $2,228 a month, a relatively affordable 27 percent of median monthly income ($8,252).

The rest of the top five, in order, are: Franklin, ownership rate of just under 80 percent and housing costs just under 30 percent of median income; Reading, ownership rate of 82 percent and housing costs just over 30 percent; Burlington, ownership rate of over 71 percent and one of the lowest residential taxes in the area; and Hudson, which boasts a relatively affordable median home price of just over $290,000.

Rounding out spots 6 through 20 are: Wakefield, Randolph, Lexington, Methuen, Longmeadow, Winchester, Braintree, Saugus, Abington, Danvers, Dedham, Milton, Somerset, Wellesley, and Milford.

Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate. For the full Boston Real Estate Now blog, visit www.boston.com/realestate.