Amazon HQ2 – Does Boston Have Enough Housing?

Feb 5, 2018

Credit Werner Kunz

It’s no secret that Massachusetts has an affordable housing problem. In his 2018 State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Charlie Baker noted that “it has been decades since this state produced enough housing to keep up with demand.” 

That could be a major impediment to Boston’s bid for a second Amazon headquarters.

Boston is one of twenty cities – out of 238 who submitted proposals – that have made Amazon’s short list. But the promised 50,000 new jobs would mean tens of thousands of new employees looking for places to live, and chances are they would be looking for high-end housing within an easy commute of the new office space. Not every city is equipped to handle that.

The Brookings Institution has analyzed housing markets in the twenty cities Amazon is considering. Lead author Jenny Schuetz, a David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program, says Boston falls into the category of cities where housing prices are already high and building new housing is difficult, due to limited space and strict zoning and land use rules.

The cities that the Brookings team deemed most likely to be able to absorb HQ2 without housing shortages or price spikes are Atlanta, Chicago, Columbus, and Dallas. These municipalities have had stable housing markets with capacity for expansion. Most of them also have room for high-quality office space downtown.

Other analysts have also favored Atlanta’s bid for HQ2. But Boston isn’t out of the running, yet.