Boston is home to 35 colleges, universities and community colleges.  While Boston comprises 10% of the state’s total population, it houses 34% of the state’s total student population. And just under 50% of those students live off campus, which has become a problem for local residents.

All these students living off campus heavily influence and squeeze the supply of Boston’s residential housing and its ancillary development.  According to Boston’s Third Annual Assessment of Housing Trends for the 2016-17 academic year, “…every housing unit inhabited by students shrinks the pool of housing available for Boston’s workforce… and increases the pressure on Boston’s supply of unsubsidized affordable middle-income housing.”

The city is pushing its housing task force, Housing Boston 2030, to reduce the number of students living off campus by adding some 16,000 undergraduate dormitory beds.  Not only would additional dormitory beds ease some of the pressure on Boston’s residential housing, additional undergraduate dormitory beds would ease concern for undergraduates living in “unsafe and/or unsuitable housing.” Graduate students living off campus (and some 70% of all grad students live in Greater Boston and Boston Proper) are less of a concern when it comes to unsafe and unsuitable housing just because graduate students are older, more experienced and, most usually, more mature in their decision making about where and how to live.

Boston’s Perilous Off Campus Housing

Right now, two thirds of all students living off-campus live in the Boston neighborhoods of Fenway/ Kenmore, Allston/Brighton and Mission Hill.  The neighborhoods of Dorchester and Mattapan are home to minuscule numbers of students.

Some of the squeeze on off-campus residential housing in Boston is being relieved by flat student enrollment figures.  Total enrollment went up by just 0.1% in the 2015-16 academic year.  That trend seems to be holding for 2016-17 due to educational costs and less availability (and the pitfalls) of student loans.

“Taking into account all current and future dormitory bed construction…and assuming that undergraduate enrollment continues to remain flat…the number of full time undergraduates needing housing in Boston’s private housing market will be reduced by 50%…” in the next five – eight years, according to the Third Annual Assessment of Housing Trends.  Such a reduction in off-campus housing for students enrolled in Boston’s 35 college and universities would be a relief to Boston’s full time residents needing single family housing.  It would also be a relief to parents of Boston’s undergraduate students who may be living in dicey off campus housing situations.

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