Opinion guest column

The case for MIT graduate student apartments

Lack of MIT graduate student housing will affect everyone in the Cambridge and Boston area

If you know a graduate student here at MIT, then you have likely been privy to a story or two about the stress of finding housing in the Cambridge area. The housing inventory in the Boston area is tight to say the least, and tight inventory means housing prices get pushed up. Ultimately, students get pushed farther and farther from campus in pursuit of affordable housing.

But this isn’t just a sob story about MIT students wanting a more convenient commute to campus. This concerns the surrounding communities around MIT: more students looking for housing means higher prices for everyone, displacing former Cambridge and Boston residents from their longtime neighborhoods.

MIT currently has 6,800 graduate students and the capacity to house only a third of those students. It turns out that many of the remaining two thirds would love to live on campus were it an option. Earlier this summer, the MIT Graduate Student Council conducted a survey about housing preferences and received responses from nearly a quarter of the graduate community. The results were staggering: there is a demand for at least 1,450 additional beds on campus, and the number could be as high as 1,800.

Why is this especially important now? Starting this year, MIT’s investment arm, MITIMCO, is undertaking a new development near Kendall Square. This development, which is currently part of the federal government’s John A. Volpe National Transportation System’s Center, aims to bring 1.7 million square feet in new office space to Kendall Square. To give you a sense of how big that is, the entire undergraduate housing stock at MIT only adds up to 1.5 million square feet. The graduate housing stock is even smaller at 1.3 million. An investment of this magnitude will translate to well over 10,000 workers. Jobs are good, but new workers will make housing in the Cambridge area even more scarce. Some of the workers at Volpe will live in the 1,400 apartments MITIMCO also plans to build, but many many more will seek their housing elsewhere in the Cambridge community. There are some who believe that we must build our way out of affordable housing crises. With this project, I fear we would be building ourselves into a housing crisis.

The Cambridge city council is currently considering whether to allow the Volpe development to go forward without a commitment from MIT to build graduate student housing on the site. We need the MIT student body to take a stand: we should not bring new workers to Cambridge without providing more housing for graduate students.

Anne Hudson is a graduate student in the department of Urban Studies and Planning.