As of late, one of the more contentious aspects surrounding Boston’s higher-ed scene has been student housing. It’s recently come to light that many of the living situations afforded to students are terribly substandard and pose serious safety and health affects to those who live there. Mayor Walsh has teamed up with local institutions to brainstorm ways to combat this unfavorable trend.
On Tuesday, Mayor Walsh convened a meeting with representatives from 22 of Boston’s colleges and universities to find out what City Hall can do to reverse subpar housing situations off-campus. At the center of the debate is notorious landowner Anwar Faisal and his Alpha Management Corp. Faisal is locally renowned for the decrepit spaces he rents knowingly to unsuspecting students.
“The City of Boston and its academic institutions must work together and take action together to protect students from irresponsible landlords,” said Mayor Walsh in a statement. “There are small steps we can take now to make large strides in the safety of students who are living off-campus.”
Though Faisal is not the only offender in soliciting unsatisfactory housing, he’s the largest renter of student housing in the city and recently signed a master lease agreement between Northeastern University and Alpha. Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim has brought this specific matter before the City Council, however, hoping to investigate the nature of the business relationship and any detriments it may pose to students.
In the meantime, Walsh put forth a few preliminary initiatives Tuesday, all of which garnered support from the higher-ed representatives in attendance.
He asked that schools continue collecting the addresses of students living off campus and to submit those to City Hall within 30 days. By doing this, he hopes to be able to zero in on which landlords are adhering to the city’s housing regulations and zoning codes, and subsequently prevent overcrowding and other unsafe conditions.
In 2013, a Boston University student was killed in a three-alarm fire in Allston. It was reported that 19 people were living in the two-family home, some of which resided illegally in the basement and the attic.
“Student safety and security, whether on- or off-campus, is our highest priority,” Colin Riley, a spokesperson for BU told BostInno in an email. He continued:
Also, we have met the City’s goal of housing on-campus 75 percent of our undergraduates who need housing for the past 15 years and have built student housing designed to retain upperclass students on campus. We will continue to work with the Mayor and City officials on these important issues.
BostInno also got in touch with Emerson College President Lee Pelton, whose sentiments echo those of Boston University’s.
“We want Boston to be a safe place for our students to work, live, and study and we pledged in the meeting to work in partnership with the Mayor on these issues,” President Pelton told BostInno in an email. “We currently house nearly 60 percent of our students and hope to provide campus housing for an even greater percentage of our students in the future.”
Mayor Walsh also urged institutions to update materials provided to students and parents on collegiate living situations and that those materials include detailed information about how they can prevent themselves from ending up in repulsive residences.
He and his constituent officials will also begin drawing up some kind of collaborative, cross-sector partnership, whether between private entities and the schools or with the City (or even both) in order to better regulate living conditions and cease risking the health and wellness of off-campus students.
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