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COVID-19 response: 3 research briefs that gauge COVID impact on housing

Posted on September 30, 2020

In May, MHP’s Center for Housing Data (CHD) teamed up with Boston Indicators to launch the COVID Community Data Lab (CCDL). Three recently released research briefs analyze how the fallout from the pandemic is impacting the regional housing landscape.

New vacancies drop in rents in Boston, even as prices remain stable or increase elsewhere

Tom Hopper, CHD Director of Research & Analytics, reports on divergent trends in the multifamily rental market: decreasing prices in expensive Boston-area neighborhoods and increasing prices in other parts of the state, notably Western and Central MA.

Hopper gives particular attention to the continued increase in rental prices in “Gateway” communities such as Holyoke, Lowell, and Fitchburg. He worries that increased demand in these areas could lead to more incentive for evictions after the moratorium expires in January.

Housing equity and resilience in Greater Boston’s post COVID economy

As the third installment of this year’s Greater Boston Housing Report Card, Professor Alicia Sasser Modestino of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University (and MHP’s Board of Directors) walks us through the relationship between current economic stressors and housing stability.

Modestino emphasizes how widespread unemployment, particularly for low-wage earners, is exacerbating an already precarious situation. In many of the state’s largest cities, households were already spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent before the pandemic. She posits that without additional federal support, the income problem will only worsen.

How renters and landlords are making payment plans, and how it won’t be enough

CHD Data Analyst Lucas Munson walks readers through the dynamics between renters and landlords as they navigate the eviction moratorium.

Munson uses recent surveys from Avail and Apartment List to examine the extent to which, without additional federal support, renters and landlords are negotiating payment agreements for rent arrearages. While many landlords are negotiating payment plans with renters, others are not. With renters increasingly relying on family or emergency savings to make rent, Munson argues that the situation will only worsen by January, when the federal eviction moratorium is lifted.

For more on the efforts of the COVID Community Data Lab, go to the CCDL site. The site features research on employment, housing, transportation, and more, along with data and graphs on a wide array of COVID crisis indicators.

For additional information about the CCDL housing research, contact Lucas Munson at