Mayor Walsh Demands More University Dorms

With the safety of Boston area students in mind, Mayor Marty J. Walsh has set a plan to cut in half the number of college students living off campus. His plan encourages a partnership between city and Boston area universities to work on building new housing facilities. With this plan, local schools will not have to put up large amounts of their own capital to construct facilities.

This plan arrives in light of increasing concerns for the dangerous conditions that are common in off-campus housing. Last spring, The Globe uncovered numerous cases of dangerous, illegal, overcrowded, and unsanitary living conditions within Boston area off-campus residences. The expansion of on-campus housing would allow for greater university control over students and their safety.

Emily Akin / Gavel Media

Emily Akin / Gavel Media

After a fire at an off-campus apartment in Allston in April 2013 killed Binland Lee, a 22-year-old Boston University student, community activists called on colleges in Boston to release the addresses of their off-campus students to enable the city to detect overcrowded living conditions. However, many students simply choose to live in overcrowded apartments to be able to afford housing. The implementation of stricter occupancy limits could potentially have adverse effects on the students.

Mayor Walsh’s plan aims to collectively add 18,500 new dormitory beds to Boston area campuses by 2030. Last year, there were 136,000 students enrolled at four-year colleges and universities in Boston, and an estimated 36,300 lived off campus, while 36,500 lived on campus, the report said. The rest lived in a mix of on- and off-campus housing in other municipalities.

The cost to build 18,500 new dorm beds in Boston would exceed $2.6 billion, according to the report. Currently, Boston College plans to spend $800 million on the 10-year plan, with $700 million going toward new construction and the remaining $100 million going toward renovations. A partnership between BC and the city of Boston in building more on-campus housing could potentially save money for the current plan, or provide aid to further expand on-campus housing even more.

Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

With 80% of its approximately 9,000 undergraduates currently living on-campus, BC boasts the highest percent of on-campus residents in the city. According to the 10-year plan, the university intends to add an additional 810 dorm beds, which would raise the percent of on-campus residents to nearly 90%.

“We support Mayor Walsh’s housing plan and look forward to working with him to meet our common goals,” BC campus spokesman Jack Dunn said to The Globe.

Katherine Chandler, A&S ’17 , who will be living off-campus next year, notes in regards to the search for off-campus housing that, “At the hearth, it was really overwhelming to try to find a place off campus because so many kids are looking to live off campus for junior year. I have four years of housing, but for junior year I decided to change it up and live in an off campus house because I think it will be a different experience and will prepare me well for the future.”

So, while many students seek to gain a different experience through living off-campus, there is a certain amount of stress and added effort that goes into the search for an off-campus apartment.

In addition to the effects that increased on-campus housing could have on local college students, this plan would in turn free up a significant amount of space for non-student renters. The addition of 16,000 on-campus beds would free up 5,000 available units for working adults and families.

By 2015, city officials say they plan to work with neighborhood residents to establish a list of suitable locations and other criteria for new student housing.

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