Massachusetts Latinos worry about high cost of living, significant housing expenses
Massachusetts' sizable Latino population is feeling a disproportionate impact from racial and economic disparities, particularly when it comes to housing.
Almost three in four Latino residents in Greater Boston are renters, according to The Boston Foundation’s research center Boston Indicators, and they're feeling the burden of ever-increasing rents. Latino home owners are also struggling with high costs of living.
“Fifty-seven percent of Latinos in Massachusetts are housing-cost burdened," said Boston City Councilor Kendra Lara, speaking at a Thursday event several nonprofits hosted at the Boston Public Library to draw attention to housing problems faced by Latinos.
“This also includes homeowners," Lara added. "We talk about homeownership as a pathway to wealth development for our people. What does it mean if you're paying over 30% [of your income] on your mortgage?”
About one-quarter of the more than 800,000 Latinos in Massachusetts are living in poverty, according to a 2022 report from Boston Indicators, UMass Boston’s Mauricio Gastón Institute and the Latino Equity Fund.
"Latinos are concentrated in service and construction jobs, other jobs that are really low paying, [and] ones that don't offer many benefits,” said Lorna Rivera, director of the Mauricio Gastón Institute, who also spoke on the library panel. Rivera says that the state's new $15 hour minimum wage is not adequate.
With high costs in mind, Rivera says Latinos are dealing with the housing shortfall by sharing living space with extended family and coworkers. “We’re living in larger households in smaller units,” she said.
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On Thursday, MassINC Polling group and the nonprofit Amplify Latinx published the largest-ever Latino-focused poll on civic engagement and economic prosperity, highlighting the concerns of 1,200 Latinos surveyed across Massachusetts.
The poll showed that Latino residents' top two priorities for state leaders were to make housing and healthcare more affordable.
Of those surveyed 66% said they’re in favor of limiting the amount a landlord can raise tenants' rent from one year to the next. Another 13% said they “somewhat support” the idea.
“Price gouging, or excessive rental costs, is a reality here in Massachusetts,” said Amplify Latinx CEO Eneida Román.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is considering a plan that would limit annual rent increases to 6% higher than the federal Consumer Price Index. Some properties, like those that are owner-occupied with few units, would be exempt from that proposed limit on rent increases.
Dan Rivera, president and CEO of MassDevelopment, said the cost of housing is high because supply is scarce across Massachusetts, especially around Boston.
Boston is considering an increase in the ratio of affordable apartments required in developments with 10 or more units, from 13% up to 20%. West of Boston, the Framingham City Council recently voted to boost their community's requirement from 10% to 13%.
“For us, we want to see production. We want to start seeing housing by any means necessary. Veteran housing, elderly housing, you know, artist housing, loft space,” Rivera said. “There’s no silver bullet. You got to do all of that. You got to do 40B, you got to do affordable, do market-rate, do mixed-income."
Lara, who chairs the Boston City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, said a significant problem is that elected officials don’t have the will to take action.
“There are bills that were just passed for rent control across the state, or at least enabling legislation that would allow cities to stabilize rents,” she said.
Lara suggested creative solutions, like an effort by the city council to help fund a group of 36 mostly triple-decker buildings called the Blue Line Portfolio. It's a new model called a Mixed-Income Neighborhood Trust, the first of its kind on the East Coast, that would benefit the especially housing-burdened area of East Boston, where many Latino residents are being priced out.
When it comes to Latino home ownership, there is some good news. Rivera of the Gaston Institute said there’s been improvement on homeownership for Latinos who have been in Massachusetts a long time. “Second and third generation, we're seeing differences in homeownership rates."
Disclosure: The State of Race is in partnership with GBH, NAACP Boston Branch, The Boston Globe and GBH WORLD. For The Latino Housing Crisis event, the community partner was the Latino Equity Fund.
This story was first published on WGBH.com.