Mass. residents are concerned about housing. Here’s what they think should be done about it, according to poll

Politics

Many Massachusetts residents agree: Housing is a problem in the commonwealth. But they also agreed on some measures to fix it.

A construction site in Cambridge.
At the Jefferson Park apartments in Cambridge, the complex has undergone demolition, and will be redeveloped under the city’s affordable housing law. David L Ryan/Boston Globe

Housing is a major issue in Massachusetts, according to a new poll, and probably a no-brainer to anyone who has tried searching for an affordable home in the last few years in the commonwealth. 

But what do residents think state lawmakers should do about the growing problem? The latest UMass Amherst/WCVB poll took a closer look at not just the problems that concern residents, but at which solutions could have strong support.

Nearly three quarters of the poll’s 700 respondents either “strongly” supported or “somewhat” supported both rent control and building more low-income housing. 

“The main takeaway is that residents are really concerned with the housing crisis as seen in the most important word cloud, and that most residents are supportive of policies that provide more housing and lower prices,” said Tatishe Nteta, director of the UMass poll. 

The poll reported that 9% of respondents strongly opposed rent control, 7% somewhat opposed it, and 13% answered neither. As for building more low-income housing, 5% strongly opposed it, 7% somewhat opposed it, and 17% neither supported nor opposed it. 

When asked if respondents supported more low-income housing in their community, strong support shot up to 47%, compared to 43% for strong support in general. But those who strongly opposed it in their community also went up to 18%. 

Respondents also expressed more support than not for tax breaks that would help developers turn empty commercial buildings into housing. 

The group that administered the poll also pointed out high support for the “right to shelter” law — which requires the state to provide housing to certain homeless families — with a combined 63% of respondents who either strongly supported it or somewhat supported the law. 

That result is despite the fact that more respondents than not said the migrant crisis was not being handled well in Massachusetts, according to the poll data released Monday. 

When asked who they think is responsible for the migrant crisis in the state, more respondents blamed President Joe Biden, Republicans in Congress, and the state legislature. Only 5% blamed Gov. Maura Healey, and 6% pointed fingers at Democrats in the U.S. Senate. 

Another problem that respondents didn’t blame on Healey, whose approval rating was 58%, was transit. A combined 62% of respondents said they thought current MBTA leadership was at fault, or they didn’t know who was at fault. Only 7% blamed Healey, and an even lower 5% blamed Mayor Michelle Wu. 

Transit issues were one of the biggest concerns among the 700 respondents in Monday’s poll results. Broken down further, respondents who live in Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Bristol, Worcester, and Essex counties were asked to rate the performance of the MBTA, with 28% saying the quality was “fair” and 24% calling it “poor.”

MBTA’s Green Line running along Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. – David L Ryan/Globe Staff

Those are both slight increases compared to the percentage of respondents who described the MBTA as fair and poor in April 2023, the last time this poll was conducted. 

Only 4% described the MBTA service as “excellent” and 14% said it was “good.” When asked to describe the MBTA in one word, the word used the most was “unreliable.” 

Respondents were also asked if they have thought about leaving Massachusetts in the past year, and 38% said yes — only 1% lower than April’s result. The most common states mentioned as places they’ve considered moving to were Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Maine. 

Among the reasons people have considered moving were the state’s liberal politics, the perception of more opportunities elsewhere, the belief that the government is corrupt or overbearing, and the high cost of living.

The poll was conducted by YouGov, a data and analytics group, who interviewed 788 people from Massachusetts. The sample was reduced down to 700 respondents, who were interviewed from Oct. 13 to 20. The UMass Amherst/WCVB poll has a margin of error of 5.1%.


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