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Here's What I'm Mad About Today

Here's What I'm Mad About Today

I actually had a hard time thinking of something I was mad enough about to spend time writing something intelligent about it. And then I got a notification from Redfin about a downtown Boston condo selling for $284,000. Sound unbelievable for one reason or another? If you’re familiar with Boston real estate prices, it might seem like a trick. Well, it is my friend.

Let me tell you about a little thing called the Housing department of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. From their site:


Creating and maintaining a diversified housing stock that is accessible, affordable, and energy-efficient are important priorities for the City of Boston. The BRA implements the City’s Inclusionary Development Policy(IDP) to preserve access to affordable housing opportunities in all of Boston’s neighborhoods.

What they actually do, however, in my experiencing first buying the condo I own now and also in the process of looking for a new one over the last 6-8 months, is they create a regulation that requires developers to price units at what would appear to be unusually low or “affordable” (all things being relative) prices, while at the same time setting income limits for any potential buyer so low that anyone making that income can’t afford the home. So, what I can only conclude is that the only people capable of buying any of these homes either:

  1. Ends up getting into trouble very soon after buying it because they can’t afford it
  2. Or, has undeclared income, whether their own or someone else’s, to help them pay their mortgage

Therefore, no one who actually needs help affording a home is being helped, and instead people who shouldn’t be able to are tricking their way into unusually affordable homes.

None of these homes, by the way, are anything that anybody working an hourly minimum wage or close to minimum wage job can afford at all.

But Jenn, why does this make you angry?  You own a condo, it’s not affecting you directly. Why don’t you just relax?

disapproving hepburn

Well because things that make no sense and are utterly wrong bother me. That’s why I have been accused of being “angry all the time” on Facebook by extended family members who don’t know me very well, apparently. Because there are lots of things to be angry about.


Here are a few fast facts for you:

  • Boston is consistently the third most expensive city to rent or buy in, in the United States
  • Average rents in Boston are around $2,100
  • My mortgage, in the city of Boston, is $708 including RE tax (partially thanks to the fact that I barely pay any tax, thanks to the residential tax exemption Boston has had in place since the 1980s)

In other words, there is a definite and huge advantage to owning a home. If the city wants people other than millionaires and spoiled children supported by their rich parents to invest in and live in the city, they need to make some changes. Cities should not just be playgrounds for the rich.

Here are the sorts of things the BRA and/or the city of Boston should actually be doing to help people who need help affording a home:

  1. Helping people with little or no credit to find alternative lending programs
  2. Working with lenders to supplement first time home buyer programs so that buyers can come to the table with very little cash as a down payment and still be able to finance a home (I took advantage of such a program, actually, back in 2009; I’m not sure it still exists)
  3. Letting people use their rental history as proof they can afford a home; my last apartment was a tiny studio in the formerly cheap Fenway neighborhood and my rent was $1200. Having literally never missed a rent payment in over 10 years of renting in various neighborhoods (and neighboring cities) of the city, that seems like a useful fact that should count for something when one is looking to secure financing.

I’m sure there are many more things, these are just the first that popped into my head.

I’m sick of this city thinking it’s in competition with NYC for anything. It’s not. Stop trying, Boston.

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.53.43 PMScreen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.53.29 PM

Downtown Boston compared to Manhattan, same scale. From Google Maps.

I’m sick of luxury towers with doormen being built in every neighborhood downtown. Make the city a place that normal people can afford to live. Middle class and even all those people you hate to acknowledge, the people cooking and serving and cleaning up after everyone else.


We don’t need more millionaire douchebags, we need people who give a crap about this city because they actually live in it and spend time working in it.


About The Author

Jenn Martinelli

Don't let Acadia tell you he's the boss. I'm the real boss.


  1. Bigscrod wants cake

    I don’t know what the endgame is when such a large majority needs to commute in for work and the T is total shitstorm on a daily basis. Even the new stuff they built by Assembly on the shores of the lovely Mystic River are out of site rents.

    • Cider

      Absolutely, yes, they are. Rent is utterly out of control in the city. I really just think developers, etc. are being greedy and don’t care and the city is doing nothing to rein it in. There should be rent control or something similar. The city should be ensuring there is ACTUAL affordable housing in the city, and someone there should have some idea of what that word, “affordable” actually means. Working and middle class people should be able to live in the city. We don’t need to have 4,000 SF penthouses 60 stories up, we just need 500 SF and a decent, livable building. Get your $hit together, Boston.

  2. RUOkie

    I agree with you in principle. However, many of those programs (that you used appropriately in 2009) were dismantled because of the burst of the sub prime mortgage bubble. The problem being that unscrupulous lenders will take advantage of good programs to line their own pockets.

    I think that the answer really is bringing back rent control like they used to have in NYC. My grandmother lived in the same 1500sq ft apt in Brooklyn, 2 blocks from a subway from 1927 until she went to an assisted living in 1995. At the time she moved out, her rent was $390/mo.

    • Cider

      Oh yeah, of course they will. I can’t even begin to figure out all the pieces that need to be fixed. But the way they are pricing and handling these units really helps no one. They price things lower than market but set the income limits too low for anyone to afford them anyway. It’s just stupid.

      I agree with rent control, or something similar. I don’t know how a landlord can survive on rental income if it’s literally never raised – I don’t know the ins and outs of how it works – but as long as it’s raised at a controlled rate and/or there are other guidelines in place I think it’s definitely something that should be happening. Just because someone will scrape together what you’re asking in rent doesn’t mean it’s fair.

      I’m actually not joking when I say I want to be able to own a second property just so I can be a decent landlord who doesn’t rip people off. I’ll do all kinds of crazy things like not charge a realtor fee, let people own pets, not raise the rent $100 every year just because.

    • Cider

      Um I tried to reply to you but I think I failed. See non-reply.


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