So it’s official. Yesterday, the number of college kids who can cram themselves into one apartment was limited to four by the Boston Zoning Commission. The idea is that when there are fewer college students stuffed into one apartment there will also be fewer raucous parties and late-night noise. It is also hoped that this new limit will level off the playing field for families looking to rent a two-family or single-family house in neighborhoods such as Allston-Brighton and Mission Hill. There aren’t many families, after all, who can afford to fork over the $4,000-a-month rent (or more) that a landlord can easily rake in from a group of college students rooming together. Interestingly, within the provisions of this new law, larger groups can live together — as long as they are not college students.
Will this new ban have much of an effect in Allston-Brighton? I have my doubts. For one thing, it doesn’t take more than one or two college students to throw a rowdy party. The new law also seems like a tough one to enforce, given that the city’s Inspectional Services Department will have to rely on complaints from fed-up neighbors. Third, it’s hard to believe a law can single out only one group, and limit their rights in such a way.
On the other hand, I can sympathize with the law’s intent. Any adult who has ever lived next door to a group of wily college students knows that it’s a trying experience. And it’s sad to watch neighborhoods of families and children dwindle down to transient, poorly-maintained neighborhoods filled with dilapidated rooming houses. Students have argued that they need to party after a week of academic straining (poor things), and that loud, obnoxious behavior is “wholly typical” of college-aged students. I find such arguments hardly worth a response. For one thing, not all college students are loud and obnoxious, so letting a few run wild is an injustice to better-behaved students who get stamped with the “obnoxious student” label. Plus, a lot of hard-working folks— long out of college— have also been toiling away at their jobs all week long and need a little peace and quiet by the time the weekend arrives.
So we’ll wait and watch to see if this new law cuts down on wild parties. We’ll also keep a close eye on this law’s effect on prices for single-family and two-family homes or large condos . If landlords can no longer rent out large houses for $5,600 a month in rent, will they decide to sell? And if no other investors are lined up to buy, will they have to sell to normal families who can only afford a reasonably-priced house? Will housing prices drop in Allston-Brighton? Will rents go back up again? Will neighborhoods revive to encompass a wider demographic range of residents? For now, all we can do is wait and see.