Greater Springfield Regional Housing Analysis Report

March 5, 2021

The first in-depth scan of the region in the COVID era

The first report of a multi-phase project studying Pioneer Valley housing issues was released today by the UMass Donahue Institute, Way Finders, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, and the Metropolitan Springfield Housing Study Advisory Committee. Focusing on baseline demographic, economic and housing data, this report aims to increase awareness of housing dynamics in the region for both state and local policymakers, housing advocates and community stakeholders, as well as the general public.

“This research examines issues of housing production, affordability, and accessibility across the Pioneer Valley,” said Mark Melnik, director of Economic & Public Policy Research at the UMass Donahue Institute. “While they’re always important issues, the COVID crisis has brought in to greater focus the relationship between labor market and housing stability and the potential ramifications for vulnerable communities in a region.”

Highlights from the report:

  • More than half of all renters in the Pioneer Valley are housing “cost burdened”, spending 30 percent or more of their income on housing. This trend is even worse for communities of color in the region. House cost burdens are worse in the region than the state overall and are particularly problematic for renters, which are disproportionately households of color. Conversely, Black and Hispanic households own their own homes at less than half the rate of the Pioneer Valley’s white population. Hispanic households in the Pioneer Valley face the most affordability challenges, with 56% of Hispanic renters being cost burdened. More than half of Black renters in the Pioneer Valley are cost burdened (53%).
  • An increasing housing supply gap could drive up prices: In 2010, due to the housing market crash, the number of housing units in Massachusetts actually exceeded the demand for housing units. Over the course of the next decade, this gap inverted. By 2020, housing unit demand exceeded housing units by over 11,000 units. Much of this shift can be explained by the slow pace of development for new housing units.
  • Housing instability pressures have remained serious since the Great Recession: Springfield continues to face serious housing stability challenges, which will likely only be exacerbated in the coming year if eviction and foreclosure protections are removed.  For example, among homeowners, foreclosures remain a persistent issue: of the region’s foreclosures that occurred between 2015 and 2019, 35 percent occurred in Springfield, despite it having only 15 percent of the Pioneer Valley’s owner-occupied homes.

These trends are complicated by the ongoing pandemic and recession. The sharp spike in unemployment, particularly in low-wage sectors such as hospitality and food services, has created an uncertain financial future for many. While the current crisis complicates the housing situation, it amplifies the importance of working towards an adequate supply of affordable housing for all Pioneer Valley residents with a growing habitable stock of units.

“Access to safe, affordable housing in the region was a significant concern prior to COVID-19,” said Keith Fairey, president and CEO of Way Finders, and leader of the Metropolitan Springfield Housing Advisory Group. “Sadly, the economic hardships brought on by the pandemic have put a spotlight on the growing challenges housing insecure individuals and families face. While there are emergency assistance programs available, we must focus on creating and advocating for long-term housing solutions that will lead to an equitable recovery in our communities. The Greater Springfield Housing Report will provide valuable data to support these efforts.”

“This is a much needed and long overdue review, made more so since the onset of COVID-19,” said Katie Allan Zobel, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. “Housing affordability, access and quality are a cornerstone of a healthy, equitable community. This report provides the data that our community needs in order to understand underlying issues and start building a roadmap together to address them.”

The study was supported by grants from local foundations and corporations including Berkshire Bank, Baystate Health, Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP), The Beveridge Family Foundation, The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts Doherty Family Fund, The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, The New Hope Fund and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Fundraising for Phase II of the study is ongoing.

Phase II of the Greater Springfield Regional Housing Analysis is slated to analyze regional segregation and the important relationship between place and opportunity in our communities.  The research will further examine the central role of affordable and accessible, quality housing in upward mobility and quality of life in the Greater Springfield region. The Phase II work is starting now with an expected completion later in 2021.

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