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Forum examines Roxbury’s surging real estate market

Forum examines Roxbury’s surging real estate market
Real estate broker Terence Moreau delivers a presentation on housing trends in Roxbury and Dorchester during a forum at the Bruce Bolling Municipal Building.

Back in the 1960s, when homes in Roxbury could be purchased for as little as $2,000, demand was in the midst of a decades-long slide that mirrored national trends of urban disinvestment and growing black populations in U.S. cities.

Now, with multi-family homes selling for north of $700,000, most residents of the predominantly black and Latino neighborhood can no longer afford to buy there. After decades of white flight, well-heeled buyers are back, while working-class Roxbury residents are contending with rising rents and unattainable home prices.

By the numbers

$182,100 Average price of a Roxbury condo in 2000

$413,302 Average price of a Roxbury condo in 2015

$170,831 Average price of a single family Roxbury home in 2000

$426,867 Average price of a single family Roxbury home in 2015

$223,934 Average price of a multi- family Roxbury home in 2000

$553,989 Average price of a multi- family Roxbury home in 2015

“There is so much happening in such a short amount of time in this market,” said Dudley Square Main Streets Executive Director Joyce Stanley, a longtime Roxbury resident.

Stanley spoke during Perspectives on Roxbury/Dorchester Real Estate, a forum at the Bolling Municipal Building sponsored by the NAACP Boston Branch and the Mandrel Company, a Dorchester-based real estate firm. Stanley detailed the history of housing trends in the Roxbury market, looking back to the 1930s when blacks first began buying there.

She recalled the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s federally-funded urban renewal program, which tore out vast swaths of Roxbury real estate in the Southwest Corridor, the present location of Melnea Cass Boulevard and the Madison Park neighborhood. While the city has undertaken various efforts to redevelop the vacant parcels of land left by urban renewal and the wave of arson that plagued the neighborhood in the 1970s and ’80s, the pace of development has picked up during the push to build new housing under the administration of Mayor Martin Walsh.

“Developers are trying to get as many houses on a parcel as possible,” Stanley said. “Most developers are turning to condos.”

Mandrel Group Real estate broker Terrance Moreau agreed that large single- and multi-family homes in Roxbury will likely undergo condo conversions in the coming months and years.

“The movement of the real estate market is in favor of condos,” he said. “It’s the easiest way to resolve our issues of supply without new construction.”

Condo surge

Last year, 42 condominiums sold in Roxbury at an average price of $413,302, according to statistics Moreau distributed to the group of roughly 60 people who turned out for last week’s meeting. Because the average condominium price in Boston for 2015 was $707,361, Roxbury still offers a relative bargain, though with the median income in Roxbury at just under $30,000, there are few in the neighborhood who can afford it.

The 15 single-family homes that sold in Roxbury last year went for an average of $426,867, compared to an average of $744,897 in Boston.

The pressure on the Roxbury real estate market comes as millennial college graduates move into cities like Boston seeking easy commutes to high-tech jobs, and baby-boomers leave the suburbs seeking scaled-down urban living. Many white buyers looking at Roxbury are priced out of adjacent neighborhoods like the South End and Jamaica Plain.

Moreau stressed the fact that there’s little inventory in Roxbury, as long-time residents are holding onto their homes. The longer they wait, the higher their sales price is likely to be.

“It’s safe to assume that there will be appreciation in Dorchester and Roxbury, even if the market stabilizes,” Moreau said.

In addition to Stanley and Moreau, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation Economic Development Director Abadur Rahman and Director of Community Organizing Jason Boyd spoke about the role of non-profits in neighborhood stabilization.

“We have seen demographic changes in the neighborhood,” Boyd said, acknowledging gentrification in the NDC’s Dorchester catchment area. “We’re committed to seeing Codman Square remain a vibrant, African American and Afro-Caribbean neighborhood of residents and small business owners.”

Last week’s meeting was the first of three planned to examine real estate trends in Boston’s black community. A second was scheduled for Wednesday, May 11 and the final for Wednesday, May 18.