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Real estate expert sees challenges for Massachusetts economy


Photo illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Photo: Boston Globe/Getty Images

Suffolk Construction owner John Fish sees an economy in flux, but he’s bullish that Massachusetts can maintain its perch as a top economic state if it tackles its housing and transit problems.

State of play: Fish says one of the biggest liabilities for the state will be the MBTA, unless it can be kept in good repair.

  • “It is going to stunt our growth across the board,” Fish said.
  • Commuter rail service west of Worcester would be a boon for the whole state, and he said western Mass. would “grow like a weed,” similarly to the expansion of the South Boston Seaport.

Why it matters: Fish chairs the Real Estate Roundtable, a major real estate and housing lobby in D.C. He has his finger on the pulse of how federal policy is shaping Boston’s economy.

Threat level: Another factor hurting Massachusetts is the cost of housing. Fish, a homebuilder, says the state’s efforts to increase workforce housing are at odds with local governments that don’t want developments.

  • Fish called for tax incentives for people who want to build housing.
  • Resident opposition to new development and a drawn-out local permitting process at the town level are contributing to the high cost of construction, he said.

Big picture: Fish thinks the Federal Reserve’s increases to interest rates are helping the ailing national economy, and might be enough to stave off a recession.

  • But he also said the hikes will make it more expensive to construct new buildings.
  • “If the cost of capital continues to go up, that all of a sudden creates a challenge for how projects pencil out and is the risk worth the rewards at the end of the day,” Fish said.

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