What the Enforcement of No More Than Four Means For Boston Real Estate
July 27, 2016
July 27, 2016
Changes are coming to the college neighborhoods of Boston.
Since 2008, Boston has had a “no-more-than-four” law, which bars more than four undergraduate students from living in the same apartment. However, the city has not been able to truly enforce it. Last week, city officials offered a new plan to enforce “no more than four,” which relies on better reporting from landlords as well as colleges and universities.
The goal of the ordinance is increased safety for students, which an admirable one, but there is also real estate fallout to be noted.
The obvious effect is that a number of students will need to find new legal housing. Given their original choice to live off-campus with (at least) four roommates, cost was very likely a determining factor. In identifying the next landing spot for these students it would be unwise to assume they will end up in residence halls given their high cost relative to off-campus options.
These students will need modestly priced housing with proximity to campus. The demand for these features as it currently stands is gargantuan. As a student, I remember searching for an apartment and signing a lease in January to ensure I was picking from the best options – eight months prior to the September 1 move in date. That creates (even more) leverage for the landlords around college campuses. One possible solution to this dilemma is the creation of Millennial Villages, thousands of smaller units with centralized, shared amenities, which could take years.
Another important consideration is the future of units with more than four bedrooms. Landlords certainly have the option of renting to four students only, but without an adjustment to rent, each student stands to pay at least 25 percent more, potentially pricing them out of the unit.
There’s also the potential for landlords to rent these units to non-students, one of the other goals of “no-more-than-four.” Recent graduates would certainly be attracted to the savings, but may not have enough roommates to fill a larger unit and may not be interested in living with strangers. Working professionals may also find it difficult to coexist in neighborhoods with a high amount of students with the irregular hours and lack of discretion that college students are renowned for.
While I believe the price will be attractive enough for newly minted professionals and young families to overlook the behavior of some of their undergraduate neighbors, there is still a chance these units could go unfilled, forcing landlords to drop the price to increase the attractiveness. At a certain point the rent will be too alluring to pass up because of something like noise.
Unfortunately, because we don’t currently know how many illegal units are in operation, we can’t project the magnitude of the changes. It could end up being a handful when all is said and done. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the enforcement impacts neighborhoods like Mission Hill and Allston/Brighton in the future.