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BU, Harvard face housing crush

By Katie Schwarz

The rising cost of the Boston rental market is causing more students to live on campus, leading to dormitory crowding, said officials at both Boston University (BU) and Harvard University.

Housing prices in the Boston area are rising far faster than in any other market in the nation, according to an August 14 report by the National Association of Realtors.

BU will use the Sheraton Hotel for temporary student housing for the second year in a row. An estimated 500 BU undergraduates, mostly freshmen, will move into the hotel beginning next week.

The university's Assistant Vice President Robert L. O'Rourke predicted the students would live in the hotel for two to three weeks before the school could provide permanent accommodations.

Boston Mayor Ray Flynn refused last week to allow BU to lease four Allston-Brighton apartment buildings for student housing. Community activists had opposed the university's expansion. BU has no long-term plans yet for solution of the housing shortage, said David Furhman, BU's director of Media Relations.

The number of students applying for rooms in university-owned housing this fall exceeded the number of spaces by 1165. BU guarantees housing to full-time undergraduates. About 8200 of the nearly 13,000 undergraduates are expected to live on campus this year.

The university has solved the immediate problem by crowding the dormitories, according to Furhman. He said measures taken to increase available housing included: conversion of common space in the dormitories to residential space; use of university-owned apartments; increasing the "density of residence" (i.e., crowding); and conversion of resident advisors' (RA) rooms to doubles, with RAs assigned to singles.

BU enrollment has not increased, but more students than in previous years have requested on-campus housing because of the increasing expense of off-campus apartments, said Furhman.

"Each year more students remain on campus, so it's getting more and more crowded," said Harvard Housing Officer Lisa Colvin. Students find off-campus apartments too costly, she said. "They don't want to pay $400 to $500 per month."

Crowding of Harvard houses may affect upperclassmen as well as freshmen, according to Colvin. In a crowded house, more students than usual may live in a room, or students may live in lounges, she explained. Colvin did not know exactly how many students were living in crowded conditions.

Because of a desire for more space as well as for a unified campus, Emerson College has announced plans to move from the Back Bay to Bedford within two or three years. The school began looking for a new campus last March after it exhausted court appeals of the city's denial of a dormitory license at 529 Beacon St.