Housing study, community benefits discussed at NU meeting

Community benefits and criticism of a housing study were topics of discussion during a Northeastern University (NU) Task Force meeting Sept. 17.

It was the last meeting before the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) board votes Oct. 8 on NU’s Institutional Master Plan (IMP). An IMP is a comprehensive development plan that describes an institution’s existing facilities, long-range planning goals and proposed projects.

NU commissioned a housing study that was released in late August to Task Force members. The study found that NU students occupy 10 percent of market-rate rental housing stock on Mission Hill, but their impact on inflating housing prices is “nominal,” due to other larger and more powerful market trends.

Richard Giordano, a Mission Hill resident who works at the Fenway Community Development Corporation, said that the study is flawed because it doesn’t include the university’s 500 master lease units in adjacent neighborhoods, which NU considers on-campus housing. He also said a person “just has to look at the numbers” to know that students are driving up housing prices on Mission Hill. Giordano said “speculators” are buying up properties to rent to students.

Gerald Autler of the BRA countered that the study shows that it is also twenty-somethings who are renting on Mission Hill.

Pat Flaherty, a Task Force member, said it is “not fair” that the study focuses on just NU students, as there are other area colleges that have students living on Mission Hill. She also said that Mission Hill is not gentrifying like other parts of the city.

“We’re not having people from the Longwood Medical Area living on Mission Hill because of quality-of-life issues,” she said.

Flaherty also criticized NU for planning to build an expensive research and academic building first, rather than a dorm building. She said that NU would probably be able to build more academic space if it wasn’t “trying to build such a significant building.”

NU Senior Vice President and General Counsel Ralph Martin said that the university built dorms during its last IMP instead of the “academic space we said we needed.”

“We have to do it to fulfill our academic commitments,” he said about building the research building first.

NU also discussed its community benefits during the meeting. The benefits include:

  • 10 percent increase in purchasing from small locally-owned business enterprises (SLBE) and women/minority-owned business enterprises within three years.
  • 30 percent minority-owned businesses and 10 percent women-owned businesses on all major design/construction projects in the IMP.
  • Expanded SLBE participation in the Husky Dollars program.
  • 113 scholarships to Boston Public Schools (BPS) students.

Financial aid at 100 percent of need to enrolled undergraduates from BPS.

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