Boston Gets High Marks On Student Housing Report Card
November 10, 2015
November 10, 2015
Mayor Walsh’s office unveiled its latest Boston 2030 Quarterly Report, which details the progress made on the city’s housing initiatives. Among the report’s highlights is that 1,200 dorm beds have been added to date in 2015, the most since 2007. Additionally, the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) have met with schools in an effort to formalize plans for additional housing and plans to house all first- and second-year students on campus. This is very good news for everyone because off-campus college apartments have a ripple effect on the entire city’s housing stock.
When students can’t find housing on campus, they’re left to find it nearby neighborhoods. Over time, residential neighborhoods are overtaken by students. In turn, landlords increase rent to profit from the new-found demand, which results in families and long-time residents being priced out. Suddenly, housing becomes a lot scarcer, not to mention more expensive, so professionals and families have to move. Lower-income residents are hit especially hard-hit by this trend, especially in neighborhoods such as East Boston and Allston.
Even if they aren’t priced out, long-time residents are subject to the college lifestyle, whether or not they choose to participate. Because many students do not see their housing as anything other than temporary lodging, some lack the respect for their surroundings. And since students are transitory residents, long-time residents don’t get to know their new neighbors.
The emergence of “college neighborhoods” also brings resentment toward the schools that pursued growth without the housing to support it. A strong relationship between the institution and the surrounding community is essential.
Another benefit of increasing on-campus housing is avoiding the decrepit conditions of buildings with absentee landlords. The Boston Globe reported on this issue in a lengthy investigation last year and found that several buildings rented to college students are in poor condition and, in some cases, they present a real danger to those living in them. Because many of students are renting for the first time, they may not know their rights as tenants (or may not care about safety as long as the rent is cheap), so bringing them on campus can prevent students from being taken advantage of by unethical landlords.
For the schools, bringing students on campus has the added benefit of creating a plentiful stream of revenue for the institution, which can be used to strengthen the school’s academic offerings or the campus.
Twelve-hundred additional dorm beds in Boston is a tremendous accomplishment, but there’s still more to be done. If the City can continue to be a catalyst for more student housing, the benefits can be shared by all Bostonians.