About three years ago, Al Whitaker wanted to become a homeowner. He was a longtime Roxbury resident and hoped to buy a home in his neighborhood after years of renting. He soon discovered he could not afford to buy there.
“Unfortunately, when I started to look to purchase, we were talking in the stratosphere.” Whitaker said. “$600,000 to $700,000, easily.”
Whitaker said he was a little discouraged but determined to buy. He eventually found and bought a 3,100-square-foot Colonial style home. It's in Brockton.
“It’s a lot of house, but for the price, it was worth it,” Whitaker said.
The Massachusetts Association of Realtors lists the average price of a single-family home in Roxbury at about $680,000. A single-family home in Brockton, however, runs less than half that, roughly $297,000.
The price difference has sent a large amount of new business Iva Andrade’s way. Andrade is a real estate agent in Brockton, and she said business, specifically from people who live in Roxbury, has picked up.
“Last year, I sold 10 homes to people from Boston,” Andrade said. “It is a high number because the majority of my business is in Brockton.”
No data are available on how many Roxbury residents have moved to Brockton in recent years, but it is a trend widely discussed in the neighborhood.
Andrade said most of her clients from the Roxbury area would like to stay where they are.
“But once they look to compare ... Brockton and Boston, [they find] Brockton has much more home for what they are paying, compared to Boston,” she said.
The increase in business is good for Andrade, but Boston City Councilor Kim Janey said it’s not good for Roxbury when renters and homeowners cannot afford to live there. Janey blamed rapid development and gentrification for pushing out middle- and lower-income residents.
According to data in the citywide plan “Imagine Boston 2030,” overall housing costs in Boston rose almost 40 percent from 2010 to 2015. But in Roxbury the cost of housing has jumped by 70 percent.
Janey, who represents Roxbury, has scheduled a public hearing Nov. 13 at the Bolling Building to seek solutions to help residents stay in the neighborhood.
“There are families who earn too much for a subsidy, but don't make enough to pay market rate to save for that house,” Janey said. "So there are a lot of issues at play here, so we need to be really creative an innovative.”
Janey, a Roxbury native, said the city council recently passed an ordinance to help low-income elderly homeowners repay back taxes. She said that’s one way to help people stay in their homes.
Janey also has her eye on the revenue coming in from new luxury buildings in the city, like Millennium Tower, a residential skyscraper on Franklin Street downtown.
Developers are already required to fund some affordable housing, but Janey wants them to pay for more. The help would be for would-be homeowners, homeowners and renters who, according to the Boston Planning and Development Agency, make up more than 80 percent of Roxbury residents.
“We're seeing new dollars, new revenue coming in from these luxury condos,” Janey said. “If we directed some of that money to pay for more affordable housing for those families who are caught in the middle, then we would have a solution right there.”
Whitaker said he wished there were a solution for him to stay in Roxbury, but he is happy to have finally become a homeowner.
“I miss Roxbury. My heart is still there. It always will be there, but this is affordable for me, and I can live here comfortably,” he said.