Students Exacerbate Housing Crunch

Looking for a recipe for tension?

Take a community in flux, remove affordable housing and mix in a couple hundred thousand college students.

The result--palpable in Cambridge and Boston--is a housing crunch and a clashing neighborhood character, experts say.

As students drive up rents, they also drive out working families--and can make the neighborhoods more like college campuses than suburban streets.

Though residents don't fault the students, realizing that their schools don't always offer housing, they still bemoan the rent increases and the changing feel of neighborhoods.

"Students are willing to pay more, because they can," says Thomas J. Philbin, spokesperson for Boston's Department of Neighborhood Development.

"Parents of students will bite the bullet and pay for expensive housing for four years--they expect to pay for room and board," he says. "But families have to do this every year, and can't shell out as much. This drives rents up incredibly."

Bill Cavellini, a housing organizer for the Cambridge Eviction-Free Zone, a tenant advocacy group, agrees, and says that this is a structural problem that will persist.