How Boston’s housing crunch is redefining our life partners

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How Boston’s housing crunch is redefining our life partners
Triple-deckers can be seen from the belfry of First Parish Church in Dorchester in this 2011 file photo / Photo: Wendy Maeda

Much of Boston’s existing housing stock was built for a very different time — a city filled with families, with more than half of the adults married. Children made up approximately one-third of the population, and households averaged three people. If you were single, you likely lived in one of the downtown neighborhoods, such as the Back Bay or Beacon Hill.

Today, that’s all been turned on its head. Boston is now a mecca for young people, students, and job seekers. Children are a mere 16 percent of the population, and the average household size is closer to two. Two- and three-family homes now draw roommates in their 20s and 30s. What’s more, it’s the downtown that now draws families, where, according to top residential broker Beth Dickerson, newly created three-bedroom units are always the first to sell.

Yet, for decades, we’ve continued to construct housing as if we were still living in the 1960s. Indeed, all of society has moved on from the conventional family — except our housing. The result is a built environment that no longer fits the people who live here, as well as a changing definition of what it means to be a roommate. […]