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The Globe’s Spotlight Team has released the first two installments of a six-part series looking at the Greater Boston housing crisis.
The gist of the coverage is blunt and gloomy: “Across this region, the dream of suburban life is largely foreclosed by lack of affordable options to the children of those who live in the suburbs now, to the town employees who keep municipalities humming, to newcomers who might bring new energies to town — and added diversity of class and race,” Mark Arsenault wrote.
Just how big a stretch is the dream of homeownership?
Here’s a revealing statistic: The median price of a single-family home in the Boston metropolitan statistical area was about $735,000 in the April-June quarter, and the annual income required to afford that home was $227,000, according to calculations by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.
But the median household income in the metro area (which stretches from the South Shore to the eastern edge of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire) was $104,000 in 2022, the US Census Bureau estimates. (The median is the point at which half the home prices or incomes are higher and half are lower.)
While the median Boston-area income is 39 percent higher than for the country overall, it is less than half the amount Harvard reckons is needed to cover mortgage, insurance, and tax payments.
Put another way, the typical household in Greater Boston would have to earn more than twice as much as it does to be able to carry the typical single-family home.
So where in the country are the numbers not so out of whack?
Harvard’s data cover 179 metro areas, and Boston is ranked 11th. The Tallahassee region landed smack in the middle of the list at 90th, with buyers needing an income of $99,600 to afford the median home price of $332,000. That’s 1.7 times the area’s median household income, compared with 2.2 in Boston.
Located in the Florida Panhandle, Tallahassee is the state capital and a college town, home to Florida State University and Florida A&M University. It’s a buyer’s market, according to Realtor.com, with the supply of homes, including plenty of new construction, exceeding demand.
In his Spotlight story, Arsenault wrote, “The fallout from [Boston’s] outrageous home prices is a sort of economic climate change, steadily making much of the region uninhabitable for those of modest incomes.”
The lack of affordable housing has become a defining characteristic of the Boston region.
That’s not the case everywhere.