The various neighborhoods of Boston range in environment, affordability, and social scene as much as the winding career paths of the former members of the 90’s power-boy-band N’SYNC. Each one offers something different and unique, however the same characteristics that appeal to one person may be the deterrent for another. For students, neighborhoods range from the affordable and spacious student filled duplexes of Allston/Brighton to the more swank, pricey, and ultimately smaller apartments of downtown Boston. A neighborhood reflects upon you as much as the car you drive in LA. It represents and embodies your own priorities, values, and personality. It is an extension of ones-self that has been materialized in the coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and green spaces that surround you.
How do you choose what neighborhood best fits you? What I look for in a great apartment is proximity to a T stop and school, a safe and friendly neighborhood, and most importantly price. As I touched upon in my first blog entry at ONEin3, I have lived numerous apartments in Boston over the past seven years and am currently on my fifth.
My first apartment was 160 Newbury Street. There were five people, three boys and two girls ranging in age from 20-22. It was a perfect fit for a Sophomore in college. We did whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. People stopped by constantly and there was always something to do. We were a 30 second walk from the Copley stop and a ten minute walk from school, and most importantly the price was right. What I quickly learned was that Newbury Street is not just a street and my front yard, it is Boston’s very own catwalk. It is a venue of its own where Boston’s most “fashionable” come to see and be seen. Now people watching is one of my favorite sports, however watching people so into themselves can only be entertaining for so long. Newbury Street is a great place to live, however one year at 160 and another at the corner of Hereford and Newbury was enough for me.
No matter what neighborhood in Boston you reside in a betting man would say you are locked into at least a year long lease. The average student is going to remain in Boston for roughly nine months and leave one of those months for winter break, thus only living in their own apartment for two thirds of the lease. Every year you see units available on CraigsList, Facebook, blogs, and school boards from students who are not living in their apartments for the summer. This mass subletting every summer conducted by students, some 18 years old, is one highlighted by disorganization, stress and a low success rate.
Why does Boston not consider flexible housing options or other alternatives to the conventional one year lease? With mounting pressure on higher educational institutions to provide housing for their students rather than have them look for apartments, it seems interesting that these institutions have not considered alternatives other than build more dormitories. Better yet, why has a private investor/developer/entrepreneur not capitalized on this problem that effects all parties from students, to schools, to neighborhoods and their residents, to the city as a whole?
Privatized communal housing with security and the whole nine is one alternative. Similar to dormitories, however offered to students at an affordable rate. Rethinking the traditional lease is another option, where landlords specifically target students with leases that last from September to May of every year nullifying any subletting issues that may arise. The landlord would then be able to rent the remaining three months for an inflated rate. Boston can also look at international best practices and find what has worked best and what would fit our market and tweak it to best work for our particular housing environment.
What would you like to see happen surrounding the living situations provided for Boston students? What do you think would be most effective, cost-efficient, and enjoyable? Is the current system and model of housing for young people sufficient? In an ideal world what would you like to see, whether it be high-rises, mini communities of students, or all student housing pushed to greater Boston?