NU housing study delayed again

August 9, 2013
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A long-awaited, Northeastern (NU)-commissioned student housing study has been delayed yet again. It is now expected to be released a week before the comment period for NU’s institutional master plan (IMP) closes.

At NU’s last Community Task Force meeting on Aug. 1, Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) project manager Gerald Autler announced that NU consultant Pam McKinney would not have the study ready before late this month. The study was originally expected to be completed by June or July.

The study is expected to find exactly where NU students live, in what type of housing, for how long, and whether they influence the market and price out families. The study will cover Mission Hill, the Fenway and Roxbury, the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to NU’s campus.

McKinney’s office is located in the Back Bay and was inaccessible for several weeks following the Marathon bombings.

The delay means the study is now expected to be completed only a week before public comments on NU’s IMP are due to Autler on Aug. 23. NU has maintained since the study was announced that it would significantly influence the IMP.

John Tobin, NU’s vice president of city and community affairs said at the end of that meeting that NU would be willing to extend the comment period to allow task force members time to study the results of McKinney’s work and provide feedback to the BRA on the IMP.

“Our priority is to survive as a residential neighborhood,” Task Force member Pat Flaherty said at the meeting.

The IMP has been the source of contention, as task force members and elected officials, including Mayor Thomas Menino, City Councilor and mayoral candidate Mike Ross and state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, have demanded that the school create more on-campus student housing.

NU has about 1,300 students living off-campus in Mission Hill’s 02120 ZIP code alone, about 60 percent of the Hill’s total student population. NU has stated that its goal is to house 75 percent of its undergraduate population by the end of this IMP period, likely 2023.

Meanwhile, City Councilor Tito Jackson repeated his requests for more information on NU’s scholarships to Boston Public School (BPS) graduates and other community benefits. NU has previously stated that it provides over $11 million in scholarships to Boston-area students as part of its payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), but did not specify how much of that goes to BPS graduates.

Jackson also requested that data on women-owned and minority-owned businesses be provided for upcoming construction projects, to which NU agreed.

NU’s IMP is available at northeastern.edu/masterplan. Comments can be submitted to Gerald.Autler.bra@cityofboston.gov by Aug. 23.

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