Metro

More college students living on Boston campuses

City sees progress in drive to free up housing for others

Students made their way across Northeastern’s Boston campus.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Students made their way across Northeastern’s Boston campus.

The number of students living on Boston college campuses rose by more than 6 percent last year as new dormitories opened to provide much-needed housing, a city report says.

The report, set to be released Thursday, provides the first detailed look at where students live since the city instituted additional reporting requirements last year as part of a strategy officials say will help them crack down on unsafe conditions in off-campus apartments.

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On Wednesday, city officials heralded the report as proof the Walsh administration is already seeing success in its push to put more students back on campus and free up housing for families. But people inside and outside City Hall said some of the figures surprised them, including Boston University’s assertion that only 673 of its students live off campus in Boston.

“It just doesn’t add up,” said Carol Ridge Martinez,executive director of the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, who nevertheless applauded the study overall.

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According to the report, Boston College has more students living off campus than BU, which has the largest enrollment, by far, of colleges in the city.

BU defended its data, saying 3,500 off-campus undergraduates live outside city limits, and more than 1,000 undergraduates study abroad every year. The university houses 11,000 of its 16,000 undergraduates on campus, according to the data.

The city’s goal is twofold: to target overcrowding and to make neighborhoods more inviting places for families, many of whom have been pushed out by students who can afford higher rents.

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The reporting requirements came after a 2014 Boston Globe Spotlight investigation exposed dangerous and sometimes deadly conditions plaguing off-campus student housing.

“We absolutely have to have more students living on campus to make this housing available for Boston’s workforce and to stabilize communities,”said Sheila Dillon, who heads the Department of Neighborhood Development.

The city attributes the increase in on-campus living to new dorms that opened last year at Northeastern University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and Berklee College of Music, which together added 1,395 undergraduate beds.

An additional 984 dorm beds are due soon at Emerson College, Boston College, and the New England Conservatory of Music. Longer term, another 4,473 beds are planned at other schools across the city, including UMass Boston, which has no student housing.

“For the first time, the administration has a very good handle on the issue and where we want to go from here,” said Dillon.

Indeed, Mayor Martin J. Walsh has set what Dillon called an aggressive goal, but one the report says the city is on track to meet: 18,500 more dorm beds by 2030. That would free up 5,000 units of housing in the city, officials say. That goal assumes some increased enrollment at the colleges, but the goal can be modified if future data show enrollment rising faster than expected.

The report said 148,402 students are enrolled in Boston-based colleges and universities; 36,305 live on campus. Another 38,232 live off campus in Boston.

In one striking detail, the report says 62 percent of off-campus students live outside Boston’s borders, including in Brookline and Cambridge.

Boston’s Fenway/Kenmore, Brighton, and Mission Hill neighborhoods house the most students. Allston and Longwood Medical Area are in a virtual tie for fourth place.

City inspectors are using the data to crack down on landlords who allow more than four undergraduates to live together in an apartment, which is illegal. The data allowed the city to zero in on 589 addresses, and so far the team of seven inspectors has visited 102, said William Christopher, Inspectional Services commissioner.

“We are being as aggressive as we can on this,” he said.

The city may hold off on violation notices if landlords show that units will not be rented to more than four undergraduates next school year.

City officials said the seemingly low number of BU students off campus surprised them. University President Robert A. Brown confirmed the number twice, officials said.

A 2013 report showed 1,145 full-time undergraduates living off campus in Boston. BU spokesman Colin Riley said the number dropped to 673 this year.

The report also outlines a goal of making it easier for developers to build dorms so universities don’t have to.

City Councilor Josh Zakim likes that idea. “The only real solution is absolutely to have more dorms,” he said.

Ridge Martinez of the Allston Brighton CDC said that if more students leave off-campus apartments, there should be a plan for how to rehabilitate housing and make it affordable.

“What can we do to make our neighborhoods more attractive so our families come back?” she asked.

Laura Krantz can be reached
at laura.krantz@globe.com.
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