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Report: Only 23.5 percent of Boston renters can afford to buy a home

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If you’re getting tired of apartment living and are ready to settle in a home of your own, you may need to wait a little while longer.

A study conducted by the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization, indicates that only 23.5 percent of Boston renters earn enough to buy a house in the area, compared with the national average of 27.3 percent.

. —Sarah Strochak/Urban Institute

The researchers applied a scale they created — the Housing Affordability for Renters Index — on a local level. The index shows how affordable homeownership is to current renters in the 20 most populous US metropolitan statistical areas.

While affordability is of primary concern in this housing crisis, the lack of inventory poses a problem as well.

“Folks who have plenty of money are impacted by the supply problem,” said Sheryl Pardo, associate director of communications for the institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center. “It’s not just an affordability issue; it’s not just [about]folks that make the median income or even lower income. It’s also the folks that have plenty of money to buy a home who are having trouble just finding them, and the rents are very expensive.”

An article in Citylab, the urban news outlet of The Atlantic, said that it now takes 5.2 years of income to buy a median-priced home in Boston, whereas “the rule of thumb long used by real estate agents and home buyers is that you can afford a house if its price is equivalent to roughly 2.6 years of your household income.”

The study noted that moving farther away from the city center — and enduring a longer commute — may be the only option for prospective buyers, as prices tend to be lower outside Boston and in some surrounding cities. From 2007 to 2017, the “inner city” (Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville) saw a 61 percent to 89 percent rise in home prices, while buyers looking in communities in the “outer suburbs” (Natick, Wayland, Sudbury, and Lincoln) met with prices that ranged from a 7 percent drop to a 32 percent increase.

. —Sarah Strochak/Urbani Institute

“Folks are flocking to the center city,” Pardo said.

For now, it’s seeming that renters will have to either grin and bear a longer commute or be patient and sock away more in their savings accounts.

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