Watertown Family’s Struggle to Afford to Stay in Town Spotlighted by Globe

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A screenshot of the Boston Globe website.

The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team has turned its focus on the affordability of housing in the Boston area, and this Sunday the paper focused on a family from Watertown.

The Charles River Regional Chamber summarized the piece well:

“If you haven’t read it yet, make some time to read the Globe Spotlight Team’s profile about an East Watertown’s family’s struggles to stay in their home over four generations and what it says about how housing has become out of reach for so many working class families.”

Read the Boston Globe story by clicking here.

13 thoughts on “Watertown Family’s Struggle to Afford to Stay in Town Spotlighted by Globe

  1. Thank you Charlie for directing attention to this article and series! Christopher Herbert, Managing Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University reiterates that this is a supply-demand problem. It is easy to blame the Great Recession, the COVID epidemic or relatively high interests (they were higher in 81) because they are conspicuously obvious. But underneath it all, lies the gross lack of supply, which dramatically dropped in the early 1990s. I hope the Globe continues this series for a long period of time.

    • It is not just a matter of simple supply and demand. This is one of the foremost neoliberal economic deceptions of our time. On a par with supply side economics, it is used as an excusatory rational for the economic interests of elites.

      In addition to supply, other factors involved are inequitable distribution of income and wealth, poor land use decisions, increasing dehumanization in American society, breakdown of community, development favoring “luxury” housing over middle class housing, and yes–even though many don’t want to talk about it–good old fashioned greed.

      I would add to the list an increasing imbalance of power between the entrenched interest groups and democratic forces and the introduction of outside capital into once insulated markets, which can be a mixed blessing.

      So while it is easy, in the abstract, to say that our housing crisis stems from a simple lack of supply, the situation on the ground is much more complicated than that. Beware of “experts” who present simplistic explanations of complicated problems.

      • Yes AND supply/demand, when we are talking about the number of units. Each has a function to accomplish. The Planning Board and ZBA need to increase stock, a lot, by letting new developments in and making zoning less restrictive to create better land use options. Our representatives need to ensure that our tax system is progressive (like why do we tax social security instead of inherited wealth?), and the president should adopt more Keynesian approaches. More housing programs are calling for giving people cash to help purchase homes instead of tax credits. Credits tend to inflate price through mortgage lending. This is an idea that Keynes had proposed to LBJ during the development of the the Great Society program.
        Keynesian approaches worked from post WW2, and then Nixon came along. It’s no accident that “golden age” started to dissipate around 1970. As for greed, that’s partially cultural and partially policy. I think we need to defer again to experts and lay down more regulation, Thank Jack Welch for “downsizing” (aka extract as much rents from assets instead of utilizing assets to generate and sustain wealth) and leadership that bullies instead of leads. In the 1950s, people would have seen a CEO that made 900 times the average worker as obscene. It is complex. So it takes many solutions to fix it.

      • Mr. Levendusky has given us some great vocabulary words but missed the point: Supply and demand is the highest governing principle, and the other factors he mentioned determine or impact the actual levels of supply or demand. For example, “poor land use decisions” — including the actions of many towns and cities over the past 50 years to restrict multi-family housing — is a direct cause of scarce SUPPLY today.

        I see a common theme among many complaints about the high price of housing… many people seem to expect that *someone else* is going to pay for what they need. You can’t expect developers to spend their money to build something just because you want it. They’re for-profit entities, generally corporations. They will undertake projects that are expected to generate a profit because their shareholders demand it.

        If building low-priced housing isn’t attractive to for-profit developers, we need to find someone else to fund it. You’re welcome to spend your own money to build “affordable” housing. Otherwise, we need cities and towns to divert some of our tax dollars (e.g. affordable housing trusts, etc) to make this housing possible.

  2. My family had been in the Boston suburbs since the 1800’s. There I was, retired in a fixed income and my rent went up $1000 in 6 months. Add inflation for other necessities, while the pension stayed stagnant.
    I cut food down, never went out, never bought new clothes, no hair done, no manicures, no travels to see family. See I pretty much emptied my 401k during CV19. Seniors got a small tax break, and the stimulus checks ~ but no other help what do ever
    Now our , well your governor is footing the bill for immigrants to live better than the senior population ~ who by the way worked for the government. Why did I say your governor? As of last week , I was forced to leave where my family started to move to a place that has affordable rents, and programs to help Seniors.
    This country should be ashamed of the way they have always treated seniors, as disposable items that no longer have a purpose~ yes I felt that way before I was disposable.
    You’ll be disposable one day ~ it’s really degrading.

    • The disrespectful and dehumanizing treatment heaped upon too many of our elders is a stain on our society. Every human being has importance and we should appreciate and care for them all. No human being should be disposable.

      • Yes, elders are important and should be treated with care and respect. But – who exactly should be “blamed” if seniors can no longer afford to stay in a long-term home? It’s primarily the responsibility of individuals and their families to save money for their own retirement. Our system provides a minimum senior benefit (social security and Medicare) but people can’t expect this will cover ALL their expenses in old age.

        Separate topic: the price of housing is too high because not enough housing has been built. Period end of story.

  3. Thank you Rose for your heartfelt comment, No one knows your pain till it affects them, then it becomes a major problem for someone else’s family or themselves, wondering how this happened. All I can say is Best Wishes for you in the future.

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