The Commonwealth Housing Task Force, an ad hoc group convened to address the state’s housing economy, issued its first quarter Report on March 30. While the overall economic picture is still taking shape, signs indicate that we are in a growth mode, and that the current housing market in Massachusetts appears to be stabilizing. There are many positive details to report. Here’s a brief summary of what’s going on in the Commonwealth:
• Banker and Tradesman reported good news about home and condominium sales in Massachusetts through the end of March, with the highest February numbers in five years. Since housing starts and sales are important bellwethers of the economy, with substantial spin-off effects as new owners and renters purchase equipment, furnishings, etc., that number is very good news for Massachusetts.
Quick housing statistics overview (source B&T):
• A total of 2,350 single-family homes sold in Massachusetts last month, the highest sales volume for the month of February in five years.
• February home sales rose 33% statewide - an increase from 1,765 sales in February 2011. This is the largest sales volume recorded during the month since 2007.
• The 33% gain represents the sharpest increase in year-over-year sales volume since May 2010 when sales rose almost 35%. This is the second consecutive month that sales are on the upswing.
• So far this year, single-family home sales are up 15.8% from a year ago. Statewide, a total of 4,764 transactions were completed in the first two months in the year, up from 4,114 during the same period in 2011.
• February condominium sales also increased last month. There were 892 condo sales in February, up almost 18% from 757 sales during the same month last year. Year-to-date condo sales also rose 5.3% to 1,789 from 1,699 last year.
On other fronts:
• The MassWorks Infrastructure Program is now operational, providing infrastructure grants for market rate and affordable housing development projects, and should be a natural complement to development in Chapter 40R districts across the state. In November, 2011, the Patrick-Murray Administration approved 23 new MassWorks grants, bringing the state’s total investment in MassWorks to nearly $61 million, supporting thousands of jobs in Massachusetts communities
• Under the leadership of newly-appointed Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein, the MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will operate the new Housing Development Incentive Program, designed to facilitate the development of primarily market rate housing in existing non-residential properties in new Housing Development Zones in “Gateway” Cities in Massachusetts.
• Progress continues on Chapter 40R, an incentive-based alternative to Chapter 40B. 40R allows municipalities to proactively identify and zone growth districts. Under Chapter 40R, 33 Smart Growth zoning districts have been approved in 31 municipalities, totaling approximately 12,350 zoned units, with continuing interest in many more. More than 50 cities and towns in the Commonwealth have either passed Chapter 40R districts, or are in some stage of consideration. To date, construction has been completed or begun on 1,270 housing units, with an additional 1,275 units expected to break ground over the next six months, and 9,000 pre-zoned units remaining in the development pipeline.