3.4 min readBy Published On: March 29th, 2017Categories: News18 Comments on Can families afford to live in Southie anymore?

If you have children and live in the city, you know about the challenges that can surface.  Parking – have you tried to unload a car full of groceries, with a toddler and baby in an infant car seat?  Schools – unless you’re paying tuition for a private school, the choices for Boston Public Schools in your neighborhood are slim and there are no guarantees you’ll get your first choice of where you’d like to send your child.  Housing – where do I begin?  If you were lucky enough to have bought 15 years ago, you might be okay.  But as a new family grows – where do they go?  According to Zillow.com, the median list price per square foot in South Boston is $628, which is higher than the Boston average of $609. The median price of homes currently listed in South Boston is $749,000. The median rent price in South Boston is $2,800.  If you want to buy a 3-4 bedroom home in the 1800-2100 square foot range – we are talking over a $1million.  Bananaland.

An eye-opening situation arose this week in my neighborhood.  Universal Hub reported that condo owners who where trying to seek a variance to add space to the back of their units were rejected by  City of Boston Zoning Board of Appeals. Neighboring residents complained that the expansion could potentially block their light and cut off their air.   According to the post on Universal Hub, one abutter who’s lives on E. 7th street for 30 years, said that building in question is already only 23 inches from his home and doesn’t need to come any closer.  The abutter also went on to state that he “plans to live there until hie dies and will keep renting two units as affordable no matter what condo flippers do to try to ruin the neighborhood.”

Needless to say, some interesting comments generated on social media.  This one caught my eye.

  The people wanting the variance are in fact two young South Boston families.  They are not developers looking to flip the property.  They need the room for their growing families.  They were rejected.  Meanwhile, developers are getting approved for projects that are reshaping our entire neighborhood – in some cases with very little questions asked.  Families want to stay but in the current state of South Boston, will they be able to stay? 

There are still many families with a range of housing situations staying in the neighborhood.  It’s still a vibrant community – in many ways even more vibrant with the addition of a healthy business district chock full of small businesses and restaurants.  The South Boston that I grew up in – a mainly working class neighborhood –  is slowly disappearing.  Some residents would even say it’s long gone.

There are less and less affordable homes.  Are the developers to blame?  Are the people who sold for a high price tag and moved out to blame?  Are the politicians to blame? One thing is for sure, it didn’t happen overnight. I think it’s a perfect storm of everything. It’s been a wheel in motion on the move for over 25 years.  The fact of the matter is with the addition of high profile businesses like GE and Reebok moving into the neighborhood, it will drive up the demand and cost for housing even more.  As a result, more local residents will feel the squeeze of the pressure to move for more affordable rent in other neighborhoods or sell their home because the price is right and the quality of life issues – parking, traffic, schools, expenses – are becoming too heavy of a burden to carry. 

So can Southie be saved? Will middle class/working class families be able to stay or is it too late? As my grandfather Jim Dahill used to say, “Southie is the best kept secret.  It’s only a mater of time before people discover how great it is.”  He sure said a mouthful.


  1. Dennis M Conway March 29, 2017 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    Southie was the best kept secret then the tall ships cane in 1976. It has never been the same.

    • Maureen Dahill March 29, 2017 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      You might be right!

    • Kevin March 30, 2017 at 1:38 am - Reply

      I’ve heard others say that too.

    • Ed April 3, 2017 at 1:48 pm - Reply

      I would agree with that

  2. Larry March 29, 2017 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    Many factors to a ‘changed forever’ Southie. Boston is becoming one giant college campus. The federal dollars pour in like a tsunami. 250k students hig Beantown every Sept 1st with duffel bags filled with tuition loans & grants. Hyper inflayjng the entire local Economy. The Private Sector can not compete. You either work for the colleges, State or City, or you’re GONE.

    • Typical Millenial March 30, 2017 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      Except for the fact that Boston was just nominated for the city in the US with the largest density of small, private businesses.

  3. Kristin March 29, 2017 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    My neighbor cited the same reasons for a massive garage + 2story addition and the ZBA approved it despite considerable opposition from the abutters. They said was for their growing family, but reality is they wanted room for their growing family…AND keep their au pair. I can appreciate that families want to stay in the community and raise a family, but at what point is a variance granted for a family in spite of the community itself? Why should one lose natural light and privacy in favor of supporting the lifestyle desires of another when it is unsupported by the zoning code?

  4. Mike March 30, 2017 at 12:37 am - Reply

    The code is in place for a reason. Variances should not be granted to developers or home owners if there is legitimate opposition. If you can expand your house without a variance, then go for it and if not too bad.

  5. Jennifer March 30, 2017 at 2:41 am - Reply

    Perfect example of zoning board letting developers do whatever they want is the monstrosity going up at L and 3rd street. Homeowners on Newhill place completely lost light and now they have the pleasure of looking at a cement wall!!

  6. Jeannie Doherty March 30, 2017 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Our multi-generational, economically diverse neighbors are vanishing and we are quickly becoming homogenous. Stand up to developers only building studios, one & two bedrooms and cramming them in. We are feeling in Dorchester as well. Sharing a piece about Washington, DC

  7. Ellen Brown March 30, 2017 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    Bananas, is correct ! It is a shame to see what developers have done to the neighborhoods. Southie is over developed as well as Charlestown and Dorchester is on its way. I remember thinking we were on top of each other in the 70’s but now it’s much worse.
    Thank God we can remember when it wasn’t like this and you had room to breathe.

  8. Typical Millenial March 30, 2017 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    Doesn’t anyone know to pay grease money to the zoning people? You actually think there’s a transparent, justifiable system in place that benefits the residents? Open your eyes people! The developers give kick backs on their profits to the people controlling the decision making. Maureen wrote an article on this last fall. Pay up or suck it up.

  9. Maureen Murphy March 31, 2017 at 10:56 pm - Reply

    All the buidling and cramming people in is taking its toll on the quaility of life in Southie. The parking, the double parking, the kids renting units who don’t know they aren’t in college dorms anymore, the people who dont pickup after their dogs.. I could go on.. I have been here for over 30 years so I am lucky that i can sell and move if I wanted to but I dont want to.. I just keep hoping that the builders and pols will stop being so greedy but I guess that is a pipe dream! to.ear t,

  10. Old time SOUTHIE April 1, 2017 at 2:16 am - Reply

    Their is still a lot of “SOUTHIE ” people left..and their is a lot of good people who have moved into the neighborhood who want to stay and raise family..let’s join togeather and keep SOUTHIE a family oriented place to live..Remember, we had this place all to ourselves for generations and we had a good thing..but “times,they are changing “..GOD BLESS SOUTHIE!!

  11. Anonymous April 1, 2017 at 2:33 am - Reply

    I would suggest taking a look at the distance between these two homes.. the proponents on M St. and the abutters on 7th St..It’s about a foot and a half..It would literally wall off the side of the 7th Street home..It’s not about long time residents vs newcomers..It’s about quality of life..As sympathetic as I am to the M St residents wanting to grow their family and stay in SB, they bought these condos knowing the square footage..It may seem simple to people not involved in the process but it’s not black and white..Especially this case..I would strongly suggest people take the time to look into it more before passing judgement either way..I’m sympathetic to both sides positions.. but when this happens.. when both sides have a justifiable argument..In my opinion the variance should not be granted..If you are seeking a variance it should be clear cut why you deserve it.. And I know thats not how it always works but in this case..I really do feel like it was the right outcome

  12. The Koz April 1, 2017 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Forced busing forever changed the fabric of this neighborhood. Families fled to the suburbs and the family orientation shifted to young professions. Three deckers filled with kids were converted to condos filled with yuppies. The projects once populated by solid Southie families became “integrated” which again led to white flight. Mayor Meninino ZBA approved every developers request for an illegal condo conversion. Meninino hated Southie because we never voted for him. Mumbles feared his strongest opponent would come out of here. Meninino spent 20 years changing the face of South Boston. Ironically the Grandkids of the Judge from Wellesley who enforced bussing live in Southie today. Government edicts, not tall ships, destroyed the greatest family neighborhood in America. Face the facts, too many people sold out, with good reason. When you takeaway neighborhood schools you destroy a neighborhood. Southie is now just now just a place to live for transients. Judge Garrity and Mumbles Menino, mission accomplished.!

  13. Frank Donaghue April 1, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    When GE corporate moves into your neighborhood that is the opposite of a secret.. The Southie of the 70s is long gone never to return. The common lament that Southie is not what it used to be is cliché. What neighborhood is the same as it was 50 years ago?

  14. f7677 April 6, 2017 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    I’m in my late 30s, single, child-free, and a librarian. There’s nowhere in Boston where I can afford to live alone. I shouldn’t have to have roommates at my age, but hey… I’m in that middle class that’s getting pushed out of the city. And “affordable housing” lotteries through the BPDA? Ha! I make slightly more than the income guidelines allow for, so I’m screwed.

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