New Poll Shows Bay Staters View Housing Crisis as Most Serious Challenge Facing Residents


Photo: istock

Source: UMass News and Media

A new University of Massachusetts Amherst/WCVB Poll has found that Massachusetts residents view the housing crisis as the most important issue currently facing the Bay State, with 75% of those who tried to buy a new home and 83% who tried to rent a new home in the past year saying that they encountered challenges during the process.

The poll of 700 respondents, which was conducted May 17-30 and gauged views of Gov. Maura Healey’s performance and the Democratic Party’s domination of state government, as well, also found overwhelming support for a wide range of policies to address the housing crisis.

“As the commonwealth experiences record high average home prices, escalating rents and shortages of both available homes and rental units, it is no surprise that housing is not only viewed as the most important problem facing the state but the one issue that residents want Governor Healey and the state Legislature to tackle,” says Tatishe Nteta, Provost Professor of Political Science at UMass Amherst and director of the poll. “With unified government now a reality in the Bay State and overwhelming support across demographic and political groups for the governor and Legislature to deal with this crisis, voters likely expect movement on this issue as soon as possible. While failure to address the housing conundrum may not have electoral consequences in the 2024 election, if the problem persists, expect the housing crisis to be used as the rationale to ‘throw the bums out’ in 2026 and beyond.”

Nearly one-quarter (23%) of the poll’s respondents indicated that they had tried to either rent or purchase a new home in the past year. Three-quarters of those who tried to find new homes in the past year reported that they experienced at least one of a number of challenges, including having their purchase /rental offers declined; an inability to save enough for a down payment or first month/last month/security deposit; an inability to find suitable housing; and discrimination during their search.

“Massachusetts residents are feeling the pain of high housing costs, which are among the highest on average in the nation,” says Jesse Rhodes, Professor of Political Science at UMass Amherst and co-director of the poll. “Of those who sought to purchase a home in the last year, 44% say that they could not find a suitable home in their price range. Among renters, 63% say they could not find an affordable home. This is a serious problem that hurts communities as well as the individuals seeking homes. When people can’t move where they want to move, they have a harder time accessing jobs, schools and social services.”

Who’s to Blame?
“Many would assume that the governor – who has been at the helm for the most recent acceleration in the state’s housing market – or her predecessor, who occupied the office for eight years and helped to usher in the resuscitation of the Massachusetts miracle, would be blamed for the housing crisis,” Nteta says. “Yet only 5% of the state’s residents hold Governor Healey responsible for the housing and a paltry 1% lay the blame with former Governor Charlie Baker.”

Instead, close to 3 in 10 (29%) of the UMass Amherst/WCVB Poll’s respondents pin the blame for the high costs of housing in the commonwealth on high interest rates.

Nteta says, “In a period of widespread and stark partisan, racial, generational, ideological, gender and class divides, on the question of who or what is culpable for the housing crisis, the state’s myriad demographic and political groups agree that high interest rates have fueled the problems associated with housing in the Bay State. With the Fed poised to lower interest rates this fall, it remains an open question whether interest rates will continue to be viewed as the main driver of the state’s housing woes.”

“Massachusetts residents tend to blame high interests for high home prices in the state. However, planning experts and economists believe the real problem is an insufficient supply of housing and variety of housing types,” Rhodes explains. “A challenge here is that new housing cannot be made available overnight. It takes a lot of planning and coordination between state government, local governments, and builders to increase the supply. And that takes time.”

Rhodes adds that, “Massachusetts residents’ concern about housing is a microcosm of a bigger challenge facing the state – the high cost of living. Massachusetts residents are very frustrated with how expensive the necessities of life are here. This concern may help explain why more than one-third (37%) of Massachusetts residents – and almost 40% of those 18-29 – have considered leaving the state during the last year. This dynamic is not good for the state, as Massachusetts needs to retain young people in order to ensure a vibrant future for the commonwealth.”

What’s the Remedy?
“As the state continues to struggle with shortages of affordable housing, residents of the commonwealth are open to a wide array of housing policies that seek to ease the housing crunch,” Nteta says. “From rent control, to tax breaks providing incentives to build new homes, to increased taxation on real estate transactions, we find strong majorities of residents – across demographic and political groups – in support of these policies on the agenda to address this pressing crisis. Whether city councils, mayors, the state Legislature and Gov. Healey will move from rhetoric to action in addressing this crisis is still left to be seen.”

Rhodes agrees, adding, “Given the severity of the housing crisis in the state, it should be no surprise that strong majorities of Massachusetts residents support a wide range of innovative policies to increase the supply of affordable housing, including allowing homeowners to add small accessory dwelling units to their houses, and allowing local governments to tax real estate transactions above $1 million to help raise funds for local affordable housing. These are policies proposed by Governor Healey that the state Legislature could consider as they seek to address the housing crisis.”

Nteta notes that the UMass Amherst/WCVB Poll results did indicate pushback from the right on some of the measures surveyed.

“While our results suggest a strong support for key housing policies designed to address the housing pinch in the state,” he says, “unsurprisingly there is muted support among conservatives, Trump voters and Republicans for solutions to the housing crisis that will increase taxes, with majorities of each these groups opposing increased taxation for real estate transactions over $1 million.”

State of the State
Raymond La Raja, Professor of Political Science at UMass Amherst and co-director of the poll, says that the housing crisis and the cost of living in the commonwealth haven’t completely darkened the survey respondents’ views of the state economy.

“As for the state of the Massachusetts economy, residents typically rate it better than the national economy,” La Raja says. “A majority of 53% say good or excellent, which is about the same as last year. Massachusetts residents also increasingly believe the nation’s economy has improved – the percentage of residents saying it is good or excellent went up by 10 percentage points, from 27% to 37%. That is not a ringing endorsement of the American economy, but views are headed in a positive direction. It is certainly not enough to make elected leaders feel comfortable going into the elections, though.”

La Raja notes, however, that there are segments of the Bay State population who still may feel left behind economically, according to the UMass Amherst/WCVB Poll.

“Some shifts in attitudes this year raise concerns about how the middle class is faring in Massachusetts right now,” La Raja says. “Most voters think the state is going in the right direction, with 44% saying this and 36% saying it is on the wrong track. But these figures obscure differences based on people’s income. Since last year, the percentage of Massachusetts voters earning between $40k-$100k saying the state is on the right track declined significantly, from 49% last year to just 37% this year. At the same time, opinions of those making over $100k did not change, with 52% saying the state was going in the right direction.”

Nteta says that the poll points to immigration as one particular issue that will require the attention of state leadership in 2024.

“With the state scheduled to spend over $1 billion in support of the shelter system and little indication that Congress or President Biden will address the record number of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees arriving at the nation’s Southern border, it is no wonder that immigration is second only to housing shortage and affordability as the issue that residents of the commonwealth would like Governor Healey and the state Legislature to address in the coming year,” Nteta says. “With the Legislature and the governor at an impasse as to how the shelter system will be funded, it is likely that concern about immigration and a desire to address this issue will only grow in the coming months.”

With the Bay State’s government controlled by Democrats, La Raja notes that the poll’s respondents don’t particularly object to “one-party rule” of the commonwealth.

“Massachusetts is a liberal state, so it is not surprising that Democrats dominate government,” La Raja says. “That is true today more than ever. Democrats control all six statewide offices and both chambers of the Legislature. Half the public thinks this is very or somewhat good, but 30% think is not a good situation, presumably because they support Republicans, have concerns about checks on Democratic officeholders, or both. The remaining 20% took no strong position.”

The margin of error of this poll is 4.4%.

Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

The Amherst Indy welcomes your comment on this article. Comments must be signed with your real, full name & contact information; and must be factual and civil. See the Indy comment policy for more information.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.