Foss: A weekend in Boston, city transformations and the housing market

New skyscrapers are going up quickly in Boston's Seaport District.
New skyscrapers are going up quickly in Boston's Seaport District.

I spent Saturday in Boston, reconnecting with old friends from high school. 

It’s a trip I make with some regularity, as Boston is a good place for us to meet up.  My friend Jenny lives there, which assures that our lodgings are free, and it’s centrally located, which assures that no one has to travel too far. 

It’s also a dynamic and vibrant city, overflowing with all manner of entertainment and enrichment. 

Whenever I’m there, I feel a twinge of envy: I like the Capital Region and think it has a lot to offer, but Boston is big and exciting — a city where lots of people really want to live. That energy is tangible, and it’s easy to get caught up in it. 

The Capital Region can feel a little sleepy when compared with a boomtown like Boston. 

But that sleepiness, if that’s what it is, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

In the years since my friends and I have been meeting up in Boston, the city has become increasingly expensive, for renters and homebuyers alike. 

According to the Urban Institute, 10 years ago the bulk of homes in Boston “cost less than $500,000, with most homes well below that price. As of 2017, most homes cost between $500,000 and $1 million, and more and more are inching closer to the $1 million mark.” 

Driving this trend is a growing population, combined with a lack of new single and multi-family homes. 

Of course, signs of new construction are everywhere. 

My friends and I spent Saturday afternoon in Boston’s Seaport District, now one of the city’s hottest real estate markets. 

Gleaming and expensive new developments have transformed an area once known for shabby industrial buildings, and sleek glass towers now provide expansive waterfront views to that upper-echelon of earners who can afford it. 

I won’t deny that growth can be good, but it often comes with a cost. 

In Boston, the cost is a housing market that’s increasingly unaffordable, except to the rich.

And that’s just not the kind of place where I want to live. 

The Capital Region remains fairly affordable, though housing prices have been on the rise. In 2018, the median home sales price rose 6 percent, to $211,000 — a number that makes my friend Jenny look at the Capital Region with a certain amount of envy. 

Unlike Boston, the downside of living in the Capital Region is an overabundance of vacant and blighted properties, and a lack of buyers willing to take on the challenge of investing and revitalizing them. 

If Boston has been transformed too quickly, the Capital Region hasn’t been transformed fast enough. 

But it is transforming, as new developments such as Schenectady’s Electric City Apartments, at the intersection of State Street and Erie Boulevard, will attest. 

As the region moves forward, it’s important to remember that one of the best things about living here is affordability — and to ask how growth and prosperity can benefit all. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. 


Categories: News, Opinion

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