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Allston Rental Rates Decrease in 2015

By Hannah Natanson, Crimson Staff Writer

After years of housing woes, Allstonians might be able to breathe a sigh of relief: Rental prices in Allston have gone down over the course of the past year, according to a recent report— and Harvard may have helped.

Carol Ridge-Martinez, the executive director of the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, said she believes Harvard’s recent completion of Continuum, a new residential and retail complex at the corner of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue, may have contributed to the decrease.

“The theory is, if enough new units in the area come online, it softens the existing rental market for the existing housing stock,” Ridge-Martinez said. “We’ve had a couple of large buildings, particularly Continuum, come online [in 2015].”

The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Allston decreased by 6.4 percent in 2015, according to a report authored by Devin O’Brien, the head of strategic marketing for Zumper.com, a rental startup that uses data to analyze the housing market. Across the river, Cambridge locals saw some of the sharpest increases in the region.

The report is based on active listings in the Zumper.com database from December 2014 to December 2015, O’Brien said. The database processes roughly one million rental listings across the United States in any given month, he added.

Ridge-Martinez said she was not sure whether the decrease in Allston’s rental rates is a lasting trend or a mere “blip in the market.” Allstonians have long bemoaned rising rents and decreasing owner occupancy in their neighborhood, as outside investors have scooped property and more students have moved in.

Devin Quirk, the director of operations for Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development, said rising rental rates in the Boston area constitute a problem the city must address.

Quirk outlined two strategies to reduce rent over the next few years—first, through the construction of new residential facilities, and second, through the creation of affordable housing units.

“Harvard has been an awesome partner in creating new affordable housing in Boston with the help of the Allston Brighton CDC,” Quirk said, referencing Continuum’s 42 lotteried affordable housing apartments. “I think that the production of units of affordable housing is really critical to ensuring that Allston remains affordable.”

Ridge-Martinez, however, said she has reservations about Harvard’s future role in Allston’s development, citing the importance of local feedback in the University’s planning process.

“We have to make sure that what we build in our neighborhoods fits into our neighborhoods and it’s good growth,” she said. “We need to have more community input into what gets built and how it gets built.”

–Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at hannah.natanson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.

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