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Mayor Walsh releases first-ever student housing report

April 9, 2015

Mayor's Office

Published by:

Mayor's Office

With more than 148,000 students enrolled in its colleges and universities, Boston has unique challenges related to its student population.

 Mayor Martin J. Walsh today released "Student Housing Trends: 2014-2015," the first ever comprehensive report on trends in student housing in Boston. The report was an inter-agency collaboration between the City of Boston's Department of Neighborhood Development, Inspectional Services Department, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority.    

Mayor Walsh called for the student housing report as part of his housing plan, “Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030,” which outlined strategic goals to ensure all students reside in safe, suitable housing, and 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 data included in the new report allow the City to track progress against those goals.

"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," said Mayor Walsh. "Our institutions of higher education make up the fabric of our City, and I thank them for their partnership in these efforts and look forward to continuing this work to create a thriving and healthier Boston." 

With more than 148,000 students enrolled in its colleges and universities, Boston has unique challenges related to its student population.  The data show that there are 21,425 undergraduates living in off-campus housing with the city of Boston this year; however, the new data show that the number of undergraduates living off campus has declined by 1,442 since the Fall of 2013. In addition, a total of 1,395 new dormitory beds came online in 2014, bringing the number of dormitory beds to 39,178 citywide. 

The report lays out the Walsh administration’s three key student housing priorities for 2015: (1) ending the illegal practice of renting off-campus housing to five or more undergraduates as new leases are signed in spring and summer 2015; (2) establishing firm commitments and deadlines for the construction of additional on-campus dormitory beds from each college and university; and (3) unlocking additional dorm bed creation by creating pathways for private developers to build off-campus dormitories that meet specific community approvals. 

The data in the report was gathered from the results of the new University Accountability Ordinance, passed by the Boston City Council in the summer of 2014, which now gives the community full transparency on the housing situation of all Boston’s students.  

Other trends outlined in the report include:

  • Enrollment has remained virtually the same at Boston’s colleges and universities. The number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education tracked in the Boston 2030 report increased by .27 percent, from 143,956 to 144,3442. 
  • Of the 148,402 students enrolled in Boston’s institutions of higher education for Fall 2014, 46,763 (32%) live on campus and 99,869 (67%) live off-campus.
  • Of the students living off-campus, 38,232 (38%) live in the City of Boston, while 61,637 (62%) live in other Greater Boston communities.
  • More than half of Boston’s off-campus student population lives in properties of three units or fewer and condominiums.These students place particular pressure on the workforce housing market, as many properties of three or fewer units were originally built for Boston’s workforce, while condominiums are intended to be owner-occupied housing. Collectively, 8,500 students reside in 1-3 unit properties and nearly 6,000 students reside in condo units.
  • There are currently 984 dorm beds under construction or soon to be under construction. An additional 902 beds are expected to receive approval and commence construction in the near future. These 1,886 additional beds are expected to come online by the end of 2018. With an additional 4,473 beds in the pipeline for future construction, this will bring the total number of dedicated student dorm beds citywide to 45,537.
  • The City’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) analysis of off-campus student addresses found 589 addresses to be potentially in violation of the Boston Zoning Code.  ISD has sent letters to the property owners of these is currently conducting inspections to ensure that there are no zoning or sanitary code violations. 
  • ISD has also notified all colleges and universities of the addresses where students from their institutions may be living in overcrowded housing. A dedicated team of four housing inspectors, two building inspectors, and an ISD supervisor will be conducting inspections of all of these locations. When violations are found, the landlord, the tenant, and the school are notified.