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Worcester Neighborhoods with the Highest Housing Costs

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Who has the highest housing costs in Worcester?

How expensive is it to own a home in Worcester? In one neighborhood, homeowners can spend upwards of 70% of their income on housing costs, based on the United States Census' 2008-2012 American Community Survey dataset compiled by the website "Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks" -- "a map of income and rent in every neighborhood in every city in America."

SLIDES: See Worcester Neighborhoods with the Highest Housing Costs BELOW

In census tract 7314, which is situated between Chandler and Main Streets, the median income at last census count of the 142 owner occupied homes was $32,283 -- and annual housing costs for homes with a mortgage was $22,908.

"We've completed 25 first time home ownerships in the past 16 years, but funding is drying up. There used to be a home ownership round financed through the city and state level, but that hasn't happened in the past few years," said Yvette Dyson, Executive Director of Worcester Common Ground, the community development corporation in the neighborhood. "Our love is to create homeownership, but we haven't been able to package that type of product in while."

Variation Among Neighborhoods

Last August, the Worcester Regional Research Bureau released a report, "Worcester by the Numbers: Housing and Land Use," which indicated that while monthly homeownership costs topped 30% for a significant portion of the Worcester population, it still fared better than other urban cores.

“In Worcester, 43.1% of owner-occupied households spent more than 30% on selected monthly ownership costs. This percentage was the second lowest among the seven cities surveyed, indicating homeownership in Worcester is more affordable than elsewhere,” the WRRB reported in August 2013.

Photo: Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks

While the majority of Worcester neighborhoods had reported housing costs of 20 to 30 percent according to the census data compiled, three areas in the city had housing costs in the 40, 50, and 60 percent range.

Dyson noted that she observed that homeowners in the WCG were facing similar issues.

"When homeowners have good mortgages, foreclosures are low," said Dyson. "They tend to be in good shape. However, there are a lot of folks who have serious work needs on their homes, and that's an issue."

This week, national news outlets including CNBC reported that homeownership fell to a 19 year low.

"The homeownership society is clearly over," wrote CNBC's Diana Olick on Tuesday. "Even as home prices soar and value returns to real estate, the one number that just keeps falling is the nation's homeownership rate. In the first quarter of this year, it fell below 65 percent for the first time since 1995. It now stands at 64.8 percent, according to the U.S. Census, down from a high of over 69 percent at the height of the last housing boom."

Looking Forward 

WCG's Dyson noted that the rental market remained a stable -- and oftentimes more affordable -- option. "Most of the folks in the census tracts we oversee -- 7313, 7314, 7315 -- the ones that we're serving, aren't paying over 30% of their income in their rental portfolio."

However, for potential homeowners -- and new homeowners in particular -- Dyson advised that they should keep certain housing dynamics in mind, including the age of the home.

"I think it depends on the house that they're purchasing," said Dyson. "Typically we see first time folks with brand new properties, everything's been furnished, and won't be incurring costs on the building for at least a ten year period. If someone's looking, they want to make sure it's a stable property. You need so much to take care of a house."

Still, Dyson saw opportunities ahead.

"It's a tough time. Right now we don't have any projects in the pipeline. We do have two lots we just purchased, which we're stacking for a bigger project," said Dyson. "We're not sure now if we'll do rental or homeownership...we're testing the waters to see what's feasible."

With spring underway, Dyson spoke to what was "cropping up" in the neighborhood. "We're starting a new orchard at the corner of Jaques and Ethan Allen. We're working with the Worcester Tree initiative, Lutheran social services, Chandler Elementary -- and WPI," said Dyson. "The WPI students are pretty excited, it's great. I've met with ten of them so far."

"I think what is happening is a lot of non-profit -- and for-profit folks-- are coming to the table, and collaborating -- which has been exciting," Dyson continued. "People are becoming more aware of what other groups are out there -- and wellness of the city in general."



Related Slideshow: Worcester Neighborhoods with the Highest Housing Costs

How much do Worcester residents spend of their income on housing?  Looking specifically at homes with mortgages, the website Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks crunched the most recently available census data to show how much Worcester homeowners pay annually for housing.

Below are the top ten highest housing cost-to-income ratio neighborhoods in Worcester, based on census tracts.  Income and costs are annual figures for homes with a mortgage, and are in 2012 inflation-adjusted dollars.

Source: United States Census' 2008-2012 American Community Survey dataset.

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10. Rice Square

Census Tract 7327, Worcester County, Massachusetts

Housing cost-Income ratio: 32.00%

Number of owner-occupied homes: 228
Annual Median income: $69,000.00
Annual Median housing costs: $22,080.00

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9. South Worcester

Census Tract 7330, Worcester County, Massachusetts

Housing cost-Income ratio: 32.62%

Number of owner-occupied homes: 289
Annual Median income: $62,023.00
Annual Median housing costs: $20,232.00

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8. Chandler Hill

Census Tract 7319, Worcester County, Massachusetts
Housing cost-Income ratio: 32.99%

Number of owner-occupied homes: 289
Annual Median income: $61,908.00
Annual Median housing costs: $20,424.00
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7. City Center

Census Tract 7317, Worcester County, Massachusetts
Housing cost-Income ratio: 33.00%

Number of owner-occupied homes: 96
Annual Median income: $32,000.00
Annual Median housing costs: $10,560.00
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6. Union Hill

Census Tract 7324, Worcester County, Massachusetts

Housing cost-Income ratio: 34.25%

Number of owner-occupied homes: 485
Annual Median income: $64,115.00
Annual Median housing costs: $21,960.00

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5. Belmont Hill/ Shrewsbury Hill

Census Tract 7318, Worcester County, Massachusetts
Housing cost-Income ratio: 38.93%

Number of owner-occupied homes: 292
Annual Median income: $52,500.00
Annual Median housing costs: $20,436.00
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4. Pleasant Street/ Park Ave

Census Tract 7315, Worcester County, Massachusetts

Housing cost-Income ratio: 40.06%

Number of owner-occupied homes: 141
Annual Median income: $50,089.00
Annual Median housing costs: $20,064.00

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3. Park and Main

Census Tract 7312.03, Worcester County, Massachusetts

Housing cost-income ratio: 54.51%

Number of owner-occupied homes: 99
Median income: $42,159.00
Median housing costs: $22,980.00

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2. University Park

Census Tract 7313, Worcester County, Massachusetts

Housing cost-Income ratio: 60.89%

Number of owner-occupied homes: 92
Median income: $42,609.00
Median housing costs: $25,944.00

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1. Chandler Street-Park Avenue

Census Tract 7314, Worcester County, Massachusetts

Housing cost-Income ratio: 70.96%

Number of owner-occupied homes: 142
Annual Median income: $32,283.00
Annual Median housing costs: $22,908.00


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