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New apartment construction stabilizing some Boston rents

New Developments Renting Charlestown Downtown Fenway-Kenmore South Boston South End
Boston is about to get a big infusion of new apartments with some of the lowest rents seen in years.
MICHAEL DWYER/ AP

A surge in new apartment construction appears to be slowing rent growth in a number of key Boston neighborhoods, city stats show. Downtown Boston, Charlestown, the South End, and the Fenway all either saw negligible rent growth or declines in the first six months of the year, the Department of Neighborhood Development finds.

DND reports that Boston as a whole added 10,242 new apartments over the past five years, expanding the city’s rental market by 6.6 percent. Downtown Boston saw its rental market expand by 25 percent from 2011 to 2016, adding more than 3,000 new units, most of them luxury. The South End’s rental market grew by 9.5 percent, or 875 units. The Fenway added 687 new apartments for 6 percent growth. And Charlestown increased by 327 units, expanding its rental market by 7 percent.

Citywide, rents grew 5.4 percent during the first six months of the year, according to DND.

However, amidst all of the growth, a handful of neighborhoods that saw the lion’s share of new apartment construction also saw the biggest benefits in terms of falling or stabilizing rents. Downtown and Fenway saw rent drops of 1.1 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, during the first six months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. Charlestown rents fell by 6 percent, while the South End was flat at 0.3 percent. 

“Increased growth is leading to rent stabilization in several areas,” wrote Gina Physic, a spokeswoman for the Boston Planning and Development Agency, in an email.

South Boston, though, has proven to be somewhat of an anomaly. The neighborhood added 2,547 new apartments since 2011, expanding its rental base by more than 26 percent. Yet rents still rose 6 percent during the first half of 2016, according to DND.

“There has been so much economic growth in South Boston that housing is still catching up,” Lisa Pollack, spokeswoman for the Department of Neighborhood Development, wrote in an email.

South Boston saw 8,193 new jobs take shape from 2011-2015, many in the neighborhood’s Seaport waterfront. That’s more than double the city’s overall growth rate, DND stats show. More than 3.7 million square feet of new office and commercial space has opened for business since 2014 in South Boston, Pollack said.