Rental Affordability Tracking

Housing affordability is a major problem in Metro Boston, and threatens our prosperity if the region can't attract and retain the workforce it needs to support a growing economy. Many municipalities, nonprofits, and public agencies are working to address the issue through new production, additional subsidies, and creative land use planning. Yet it remains difficult to assess the effect that these actions are having in the marketplace, and whether continual rapid escalation of housing costs is beginning to abate. Policy makers are eager to address these questions, and to respond to the concerns of many community members who may feel that new construction is only making the problem worse.

Traditional sources of data are insufficient to meet these needs, particularly with regard to rental housing, which has no central administrative record comparable to the registry of deeds for sales transactions.

To help fill this gap, the Data Services Research and Digital teams are working together to harvest online rental listings and compile them into a data product that can be used to track changes in advertised rents over time and in different neighborhoods. The goal is to produce a weekly data feed of cleaned and de-duplicated rental listings as well as formatted summary reports that will help municipal officials and community organizations to understand local conditions at a glance.