In Quincy, demand for affordable housing exceeds supply in midst of luxury building boom

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Quincy has grown, as seen at the 2018 August Moon Festival at Quincy High School. As housing prices heat up, rent control is being considered by the Legislature. (Image courtesy of Valerie Li.)

South Shore resident Yuehan Ding settled in Weymouth after being priced out of Malden. “The rent now costs us 30 percent of our income, much cheaper than where we were before,” she said.

Like many young couples who want to start a family near public transit, Ding is on the fence about purchasing a permanent home on the South Shore.

“I did think about buying a condo in Quincy or Braintree because there are tons of Asian restaurants and grocery shops, which for me is a plus,” she explained.

However, for many first-time home buyers looking for a place to raise a family, there aren’t enough options.

“The trend is that young families prefer condominiums over single-family houses. But what is unique in Quincy is the luxury condos charge exorbitant fees to maintain high-end amenities, such as swimming pools. It drives up the cost of living and many home buyers are discouraged from purchasing the luxury condos,” said Elena Lau, broker and owner of Union Real Estate.

Quincy resident Jules Wang agreed. “The core problem is the influx of housing, but all the housing comes in a form of luxury lofts.”

Lau said, “I think there should be a balance between luxury and affordable housing. For real home buyers, having a gym in the building is not a top priority.”

In the past decade, Quincy has seen a market-rate building boom that added 3,800 condominiums.

Data shows there is a mismatch of housing needs and what is available on the market. High-end inventory cannot meet demand for affordable housing. A Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) Quincy housing report found 41 percent of Quincy households qualify for state and federal affordable housing, based on income.

According to federal and state agencies, households that spend more than 30 percent of income on housing costs are cost-burdened. In Quincy, 46 percent of renters are cost-burdened, indicating a shortage of housing priced for their incomes.

On the state level, legislators on Beacon Hill are looking into restoring rent control to ease the housing crisis.

“I remembered the 1994 ballot went through when I was in college,” said Rep. Tackey Chan. “There was a big debate on whether to prohibit landlords from raising rent. I think it really depends on the mechanism of the new bill, so it ensures landlords can maintain high quality and affordability for the units they rent out.”

Wang is skeptical the bill can solve the housing crunch. “My view on rent control is that it will help with the symptoms of the housing problem we face, but not the disease itself,” he said.

“The government doesn’t have a good track record of setting the prices,” said Brian Palmucci, a Quincy city councilor on the Affordable Housing Committee. “But we will continue to work on adding affordable units to serve people of all demographics and economic status.”

“Nothing new and marketable is being specifically produced for mid-range and low-income audiences,” Wang said. “And with salaries for young professionals in our area barely matching entry prices on these lofts, it doesn’t take 7 percent to price someone out of their apartment, it might just take 2.”

Lau added 50 percent of buyers purchase homes for investment purposes, such as to earn rental income. “These investment buyers are more willing to look into fancy condos despite the cost,” she said.

The MAPC study found “units that are affordable to low-income households are not necessarily occupied by low income households.”

Wang said, “It’s all about being close to Boston to work and have fun.”