The bad news is that Massachusetts had a shortage of affordable housing before the housing bubble burst, and it still does. That doesn't just hurt families who can't find a home that suits their budget. It hurts Massachusetts businesses that must compete with other, more affordable, states for the best workers.

Homeowners are breathing a sigh of relief. Two reports last week on the Massachusetts housing market found a rise in sales during August. Median home sales prices, while still below a year ago, have now risen for six straight months.


"We weren't whacked as badly as the nation, and it looks like we're coming out of it handily," Ashland real estate broker John Ellsworth told the Daily News.


That's the good news.


The bad news is that Massachusetts had a shortage of affordable housing before the housing bubble burst, and it still does. That doesn't just hurt families who can't find a home that suits their budget. It hurts Massachusetts businesses that must compete with other, more affordable, states for the best workers.


Northeastern University economist Barry Bluestone, who has issues an annual "Greater Boston Housing Report Card," told a legislative committee last week that this year's report, to be released at the end of the month, will show that housing in the region is even less affordable now than before the recession. Rents rose steadily from 2005-2008, he said, but after a brief pause have begun rising again.


And while housing costs have barely dipped in the Bay State, the recession has helped make housing significantly more affordable in cities and states Massachusetts competes with for jobs.


America has seen three civil wars, Bluestone told the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business. The first was fought over slavery in the 19th century, and the North won. The second was fought in the 20th century over manufacturing jobs, and the South won. The third is the competition between states to attract the young working families essential to the success of 21st century employers.


An educated workforce has long been one of the few advantage Massachusetts can offer employers. But as Bay State baby boomers retire, they must be replaced by younger workers - and those younger workers are choosing places where they can afford to live.


For years, leaders in business and government have seen this problem and addressed it with incentives for affordable housing and smart growth. Recession, a credit crunch and the steep drop in housing prices silenced the advocates and stalled some excellent proposed developments.


But the recession didn't solve our housing problem. As the housing market regains its footing, leaders at the state and local level must turn their attention toward rebuilding momentum for the affordable, higher density, transit-oriented housing Massachusetts must have to succeed in the global marketplace.


The MetroWest Daily News