Will triple-deckers cost $1 million in Roxbury?
The Roxbury market is heating up with several $900k listings for three-families
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most that Roxbury’s housing market is taking off, continuing the upward trend that real estate developers and residents have noted for some time. But some might be shocked at the speed at which change is coming to the neighborhood.
The story behind a three-family property on Circuit Street next to the Warren Gardens housing community provides a window into both the area’s improving real estate market and a neighborhood in transition. That home — an attached triple decker — is now for sale, listed at a whopping $929,000.
Real estate broker Robert Nichols says the price reflects the emerging future of which developers are mighty aware. “They know the direction the area is going in, and they’re willing to take the risk on investments,” he says, noting Dudley Square’s ongoing building boom as a key signifier of the area’s future.
While Nichols can’t say who the final contenders are, he says that those who have expressed the most serious interest are real estate investment companies that own numerous properties across the city.
For some, the increase in housing prices is a welcome change after decades of neglect and disinvestment in one of black Boston’s key neighborhoods.
“This was a segregated community for a long time. We were redlined,” says Lorraine Wheeler of the nearby Moreland Street Historical District neighborhood association, using the term to describe when banks will not invest in certain areas. Redlining was a key factor in the 20th century creation of segregated urban housing markets and black “inner city” areas that suffered from disinvestment. “This was the only place you could buy property if you were a person of color.”
Now, however, she says the neighborhood has gone through a “miraculous resurgence,” with people from outside the community recognizing what locals have always known — that Roxbury is a quick commute from downtown jobs.
Wheeler says the change is welcome in some ways, but that it also does bring its concerns.
“You’re trying to balance all these things,” she says. “People who are trying to retire should be able to sell their property for as much as they can like people in any other community.”
At the same time, however, she says that the rising prices might squeeze out some of the neighborhood’s long-time residents — not just renters, as affordable housing advocates often point out, but also long-time homeowners approaching retirement who cannot afford a large increase in property taxes.
“People who have traditionally been here and have weathered through problems we’ve had like crack cocaine, street violence and poor schools should be able to benefit [from the neighborhood changes]” she says.
Wheeler also highlights another group that may fall into a kind of housing gap: second- or third-generation Roxbury young professionals who earn too much to qualify for affordable housing but not enough to be able to afford property in the neighborhood of their parents and grandparents.
Nichols is upfront about the changes he sees in the area as a real estate broker, especially with the continued influx of students from nearby universities into areas beyond Mission Hill.
“Let’s be honest, [the market] is going to change the demographics of the area,” says Nichols, who grew up in Grove Hall and is the founder of Boston Trust Realty Group.
He notes that college students and young professionals can provide something that low-income residents often cannot: a large lump sum up-front to cover a security deposit and first and last months’ rent.
Still, the Circuit Street property is not an example of an outside developer trying to flip a house for a quick buck — a practice that affordable housing advocates have criticized elsewhere. Not yet, anyway.
The owner moved to the United States from Montserrat decades ago, worked as a contractor from the time he was young, and originally hoped to hold onto the property longer before he ran into some unexpected health problems. No longer able to work, he hopes to sell the property for a price that reflects the amount of work he put into it.
Nichols, who spoke to the Banner with the seller’s permission, says the owner originally bought the property for $365,000 and then invested at least $250,000 in head-to-toe renovations of the building, including roof work, all new windows, new hardwood floors, heating and electrical work, and stainless steel kitchen fixtures. The building is also larger than a typical triple-decker, with over 5,000 square feet and the ability to reconvert the first floor back into the split-level, 5-bedroom unit that it once was.
While the house on Circuit Street might be at the forward front of market changes, it is not an anomaly. Just a stone’s throw away on Rockville Park off of Warren Street, a pair of attached 3-family buildings is listed for $999,000.
While the listing does not describe the same kind of investments as the Circuit Street property, the price listing seems to signal a strong optimism on the part of the seller — and another example of a changing market that just 15 years ago might not have been predicted.
Vernon Barsatee of Exit Bayside Realty says that while a listing of more than $900,000 for Roxbury sounds “a little overpriced,” he does expect to see prices increase significantly in large part due to development in Dudley Square.
“Since they’re putting that new federal building there, that’s having a big impact,” he said, referring to the new Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building that houses the administrative headquarters for the Boston Public Schools.
It is worth noting that incoming Superintendent Tommy Chang recently moved to Roxbury, and other realtors have noted an influx of BPS employees seeking property in the area. Barsatee estimates that Roxbury housing prices will jump by 10 to 15 percent within the next year.
Those prices still put the neighborhood behind trends that Barsatee sees in other neighborhoods, but not by much. He says a triple-decker in Jamaica Plain or South Boston can go for anywhere from $900,000 to $1.2 million, depending on the location.
“Southie right now is through the roof,” he says. “It’s been a bit of a phenomenon, especially in the Seaport district with those new condominiums.”