City, News

Allston, Brighton see rent surges

Students searching for off-campus Allston apartments next year will need to dig deeper into their pockets thanks to a combination of factors.

Since 2007, rent prices in the heavily student-populated areas of Allston and Brighton increased by 7.7 percent, according to the Boston Foundation’s 2008 Housing Report Card.

A weak housing market has actually led to higher demand for rental units, becacuse residents who would normally look to buy homes turn to renting when they can no longer afford to pay a mortgage, Boston Foundation spokesman David Trueblood said.

‘The increase in rent is a reflection of the economy,’ New England Real Estate Investment Association President Randy Roberg said. ‘The price of gas is up, the price of heat is up [and] the price of food is up, so rents are up.’

Roberge said the amendment is unfair because Boston is a large market for single people and students. He said students are forced to split rent more than four ways in order to afford the cost of living in this expensive market.’

‘It’s pretty much known that if you move to Allston or Brighton, you will be surrounded by students,’ Trueblood said.

Northeastern University School of Social Science, Urban Affairs and Public Policy Dean Barry Bluestone said Boston landlords have been known to increase rents when leasing to students who split the living cost. Bluestone helped write the Housing Report Card.

Boston City Councilor Michael Ross said in an email he passed what is commonly known as the ‘No More Than Four’ amendment to the Massachusetts Zoning Code, which limits the number of unrelated undergraduate students living together to four, as a way to combat rent increases.

‘ ‘Landlords still hope to pull in the kinds of rents from four students as they got from eight, rather than reducing your already too-high rents,’ Ross said. ‘Those rental prices are going to come back down to a range that’s affordable for students and longer-term residents alike.’

Landlords who allow more than four students to live together have turned ‘treasured homes in our neighborhoods into virtual frat houses,’ Ross said.

Boston real estate attorney Stephen Greenbaum is representing several property owners, whose tenants include Boston College and Boston University undergraduates, in a lawsuit to reverse Ross’ amendment on the grounds that it violates rent control law and does not serve a valid purpose.

Greenbaum said the city will start enforcing the requirement in earnest next September by checking lease agreements for the number of signatories. It is unclear how the city will determine if leasers are full-time undergraduates, because students do not have to release their status to officials, and schools are prohibited from releasing the names of full-time undergraduate students, Greenbaum said.

‘There is no study or information that says four students living together don’t have parties, and the minute you get five, it is going to be different,’ he said. ‘I believe that it is an arbitrary number.’

Greenbaum said the law is unfair for people who bought property with the intention of renting it to more than five students and need the income from the property to pay their own mortgages bills.

‘With a stroke of a pen, the city of Boston is saying that they don’t care if they can’t pay their own mortgages,’ he said.

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