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Students Increase Tensions In Boston Neighborhoods

By Adrienne P. Samuels

College students, who for years have lived in large numbers in neighborhoods such as The Fenway and Allston/Brighton, increasingly appear to be moving into other neighborhoods around Boston.

New city statistics tracking the number of students living off campus show sharp increases in neighborhoods including Beacon Hill and Mission Hill in Roxbury. At the same time, tensions have mounted in some neighborhoods where residents blame students for increased litter, noise, and public safety problems.

“I have now started a new program on collecting their trash,” said Anna Marie Camargo, a resident of Beacon Hill. “At least six times, I’ve woken up and taken beer cans off of my steps, and this is when I’m setting out to take my kids to school. That’s not for families. I love that we have some students but I think there is a tipping point.”

On Beacon Hill and in the West End, the number of Suffolk University and Northeastern University students increased from 344 in 2005 to 635 this year, according to a student housing census the Boston Redevelopment Authority began last year.

Similarly, a short time ago, Mission Hill was believed to have very few students, but this year has 1,446, according to the census.

Councilor Michael P. Ross, whose district includes Mission Hill, said tensions in the neighborhood have grown.

Ten years ago, Ross said, the area was not popular with students. Now many crowd into single apartments, and permanent residents have increasingly complained.

Ross spearheaded the drive for a census with the 2004 University Accountability Ordinance requiring colleges to list where their off-campus students are living.

“Clearly we can see where neighborhoods could have too many students, but then you can see neighborhoods where there’s a really healthy number of students,” Ross said. “I’d argue between 10 and 20 percent is a great number. A working-class family, a student, a lifelong resident. That’s a healthy diversity I think.”

According to the census, the number of off-campus students in the South End rose from 1,473 last fall to 1,582 this year. Jamaica Plain had 1,202 students this fall, up from 1,127 at the same time in 2005.

Officials caution that two years of data is not enough to show definitive trends. But the numbers in some cases have been surprising and provided a new sense of urgency at City Hall to confront the issue.

“It’s giving some evidence to what some neighborhood residents, like those in Mission Hill, are saying about the fact that they have a lot of students,” said Linda Kowalcky , a Boston Redevelopment Authority official, who tabulated recent numbers.