BBJ Seven Letter poll: Home costs, state taxes, commuting are 'much worse' in Mass.

More than two-thirds of Boston-area businesspeople view housing costs in Massachusetts as “much worse” than other states, a far greater share than those who said the same of commuting or taxes, according to a new Boston Business Journal-Seven Letter Insight poll.

Half of poll respondents said traffic and commuting is “much worse” in Massachusetts compared with elsewhere. About half of respondents said state and local taxes are much worse in the Bay State as well.

Those drawbacks for life in Massachusetts are having an impact too, the poll found.

Just over half — 54% — said they were likely to move out of their current area in the next three years. On the question of taxes specifically, 44% said they would “definitely” consider leaving the state for lower-tax states, such as New Hampshire or Florida, and another 22% said they maybe would.

All told, respondents made clear that living in Massachusetts has its share of challenges, with only the quality of schools and availability of public transportation rating more highly than those in other states, compared with factors such as cost of living.

“There’s a real potential consequence of flight out of the state,” said Matt George, a partner and head of research at Seven Letter.

He pointed to the 54% figure of those who described themselves as likely to leave within the next three years in particular.

“If I’m an elected official, that’s incredibly concerning to me,” he said. “There is a real possibility of capital flight.”

The state’s high cost of living is not a new challenge but it has taken on added urgency as a policy issue in light of soaring housing prices and the availability for many to now work remotely.

Massachusetts added more than 482,000 people in the 2010s to surpass 7 million for the first time. But from 2020 to 2022, the state lost an estimated 48,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Suffolk County, which includes Boston, has also lost residents.

Other high-cost states have had similar challenges with population loss. California, Illinois and New York, for example, lost even greater shares over the past two years. The median home price in Massachusetts, one of the country’s highest was $589,000 in May, essentially flat from a year prior as mortgage rates have climbed, but up from $410,000 three years prior, according to the Warren Group.

The issues of housing costs, transit — especially the MBTA — and taxes have all been pressing matters for state leaders. Gov. Maura Healey pressed for the need for building more housing during her inaugural address in January, for example, while her predecessor, Charlie Baker, set a goal of 135,000 new housing units statewide by 2025.

Instead, federal data shows that new-home construction has actually slowed.

The T has also become a more visible problem for the Boston area with less-frequent train service, slow zones, periodic shutdowns and a federal audit that uncovered major safety concerns.

Nine out of 10 poll respondents said traffic and their work commute was worse in Massachusetts than it would be elsewhere, and 74% said it was very or extremely important in their decision about where to live — more than housing costs, schools, taxes or other factors.

A BBJ-Seven Letter poll last fall found a third of Boston-area professionals seeing the area’s transit shortcomings as having a negative effect on hiring.

The state’s taxes have also become a higher-profile topic since the so-called millionaires tax was approved by voters last fall. Poll respondents cited taxes as an issue, but not as much as traffic and housing. They gave it equal importance as quality of schools and general cost of living.

The Tax Foundation, a tax policy nonprofit, ranks Massachusetts as the 13th highest among all states for state and local effective tax rates at 11.5%. New Hampshire’s is 9.6% and Florida is 9.1%.

The BBJ-Seven Letter poll was conducted in the late spring with roughly 250 respondents. Just over half live inside Route 128, and another 29% in the Boston area but outside 128, with those in the region’s inner belt expressing more concern about commuting those those farther out, who were more concerned about housing costs.

This is the latest in a series of public polls by the Boston Business Journal and Seven Letter. Read the others here:

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