Metro, Top Story, Boston

City Reports Overall Rise In On-Campus Housing

Boston’s colleges and universities have seen a 6 percent decrease in students living off campus last year as new dormitories opened to provide essential housing, a city report said. While Boston College has shown little change in off-campus housing over the past year, the University is in the process of increasing the number of on-campus beds available to students.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, recently released “Student Housing Trends: 2014-2015,” the first comprehensive report on trends in student housing in Boston.

The data presented relies heavily on the new University Accountability Ordinance, passed by the Boston City Council in the summer of 2014. This ordinance gives the public full transparency on the housing situation of all Boston’s college students—including BC.

According to the report, BC had 8,760 full-time undergraduates seeking housing in 2013, with 7,330 beds provided by the University—a shortage of 1,430 beds. 798 BC students were housed in private off-campus residences in Boston, mostly in the Allston/Brighton area, which has the highest concentration of off-campus students in the entire city.

The report also indicated that BC has more students living off campus than Boston University, which has the largest enrollment of students in the entire city. BU houses 11,100 of its 16,000 undergraduates on campus, according to the data. A 2013 report showed 1,145 full-time BU undergraduates living off campus in Boston, and that number has dropped to 673 this year.

The city attributes the overall increase in on-campus living to new dorms that opened last year at Northeastern University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and Berklee College of Music, which added a total of 1,395 undergraduate beds in 2014. Although BC did not have any undergraduate beds built last year, 490 beds are “currently or soon to be under construction,” according to the report.

Construction of the 2150 Commonwealth Ave. residence hall on the previous site of More Hall and the purchase and conversion of the 2000 Commonwealth Ave. apartment building into a residence hall—both set to open in summer 2016—are initial steps the University is taking to increase the number of on-campus beds. These measures are a part of BC’s Institutional Master Plan to house 96 percent of students in University-controlled residence halls.

“The construction of new residence halls takes lots of time and strategic planning, but the City has been supportive of Boston College,” said Peter Kwiatek, assistant director of Off-Campus Housing.

Mayor Walsh called for the student housing report as part of his housing plan, “Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030,” which aims to create 18,500 new dorm beds by the year 2030 in order to return 5,000 units of workforce housing to the market.

The report indicated that 2,644 beds were built in Boston between 2010 and 2014, which represents 15 percent of Walsh’s 18,500 bed goal by 2030. With a total of 1,886 additional beds expected to receive approval and commence construction in Boston by the end of 2018, the City projects it is on track to meet its goal.

“It is critical that we work with our colleges and universities to better understand how to provide safe and affordable housing for both our student population and our residents,” Walsh said in a statement.

The goal of reducing the number of students living off campus is twofold: first, the City wants to make neighborhoods more inviting places for families, many of whom have been pushed out by students. Second, the Walsh administration wants to target overcrowding and implement its “No More Than Four” policy, which bars more than four undergraduates from living in a single apartment or house. The reporting requirements came after a 2014 Boston Globe Spotlight investigation exposed dangerous and sometimes deadly conditions troubling off-campus student housing.

City inspectors are using the data to zero in on landlords who allow more than four undergraduates to live together in an apartment. The data allowed the city to target 589 addresses, and so far the team of seven inspectors has visited 102, according to The Globe.

BC was notified of the apartments that may be in violation of the “No More Than Four” law, Kwiatek said.

The Office of Residential Life (ResLife) as well as the Office of Governmental and Community Affairs, and other universities throughout the Greater Boston area meet with the City’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) each month to learn more about the continued inspection process. The meetings have resulted in the creation of a resource guide from ISD about this zoning law, the University Accountability Ordinance, and compliance with further city inspections.

Kwiatek explained that ResLife also encourages students to call ISD to report situations whenever there is a health and safety concern in their apartment that is not resolved by the landlord.

Looking to the future, the University will continue to meet with the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the BC Community Task Force on a monthly basis to review development projects within University’s Institutional Master Plan and discuss additional building.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Senior Staff

April 22, 2015

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