Tiered housing implemented as CoHo’s final phase opens its doors

03/15/2018 - Medford/Somerville, MA - Houses on Bellevue Street, which is being adopted for the CoHo project, are pictured on March 15, 2018. (Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily Archives)

The start of this school year marks both the end of construction on Tufts’ latest housing development and the implementation of a major new housing policy. According to the Tufts Student Life (TSL) website,  the anticipated tiered housing policy, which will change on-campus housing prices based on quality, is to be implemented in the 2019–20 school year. In an email to the Daily, Josh Hartman, director of residential life and learning (ORLL), confirmed that the new housing development Community Housing (CoHo), which is set to be on the highest tier, is open for move-in.

Tiered housing at Tufts

Per the TSL website, accommodations in the lowest housing tier, which include traditional doubles, triples, quads and first-year singles, cost $8,220 per school year. CoHo joins Sophia Gordon Hall in the top tier, with housing costs clocking in at $10,219 for the school year, according to the TSL website.

In an email to the Daily, Patrick Collins, executive director of public relations at Tufts, stated that 73% of Tufts housing options are at the “base rate,” meaning the lowest tier. 

“This includes all first-year spaces (including first year singles), FYA/CDA spaces, traditional doubles/triples/quads, and woodframe doubles or triples (no kitchen),” Collins said.

Students have been vocal about the tiered housing policy. According to a November 2018 Daily article, nearly 200 students, faculty and community members protested tiered housing with a march on Ballou Hall. The article reports that the march was followed by workshops, teach-ins, performances and a community dinner on the academic quad. As part of the protest, student activists set up “Tier Town,” a group of tents in the academic quad representing the lowest tiered housing at Tufts.

One concern around tiered housing was the fear that it may drive more students to seek off-campus housing, according to a July 2018 article in the Medford Transcript. Rocco DiRico, director of government and community relations at Tufts, said in an email to the Daily that he hasn’t seen this concern come to fruition.

“We have not seen more students move off-campus as a result of tiered housing. There is still excess demand for on-campus housing, which we are trying to accomodate by adding more beds,” DiRico said. “Generally speaking, our neighbors in Medford and Somerville are supportive of our efforts to create more housing for our students.”

The tiered housing page on the TSL website states that the Financial Aid Office does not disclose the names of those who do and do not receive financial aid to the ORLL. According to the Collins, 40% of Tufts students receive financial aid from the school. Forty percent of the students in standard rate rooms receive financial aid, and 48% of the students in tiered-priced rooms receive financial aid. 

Community Housing (CoHo) project

In an email to the Daily, Hartman confirmed that the 14 CoHo houses listed on the TSL website are completed and ready for students to move-in this fall, marking the completion of the last of three phases.  

The houses are located behind Wren Hall between Capen Street and Boston Avenue. Furnished houses includes single bedrooms, full kitchens, living rooms, community lounges and laundry rooms

“We had three phases, the first of which included 5 houses and was completed and occupied in Fall 2018, the second of which included 3 houses open for January 2019, and the remaining 6 were finished this summer and ready for occupancy this fall,” Hartman said.

A May 2018 Daily article reported that Tufts has space for 63% of undergraduates. The CoHo project comes as an effort to add more beds for Tufts undergraduate students. 

DiRico wrote that Tufts has added more than 435 beds over the past three years. According to DiRico, CoHo will provide 141 beds for juniors and seniors. 

“The average residence hall on campus has fewer than 200 beds, so we have added the equivalent of 2 residence halls in an efficient and effective manner,” he said. “To put that in perspective, the last residence hall that we built on campus was Sophia Gordon [Hall] and it houses 125 upper class students.”

According to a March 19 Society for College and University Planning presentation entitled “A Housing Program Tailored to Tufts,” the project included the renovation of 13 homes, as well as a full construction job for one home. The CoHo project totaled $19,654,707. A summary provided in the presentation shows that adding beds to existing rooms in several residential halls cost $15,100 per bed in summer 2017 and $33,500 per bed in summer 2018. CoHo’s renovation and construction added beds at $139,400 per bed.

An article published in the Daily last August quoted DiRico as stating that Tufts would be conducting a feasibility study in fall 2018 to explore a housing project similar to CoHo on the Somerville side of campus. When asked about the statement during the reporting of this article, DiRico stated that the university is exploring many options.

“Housing is an issue that is very important to the University, Medford, and Somerville, so we will continue to work on adding more beds. It’s premature to say where new housing would be located or what it might look like,” he said.

DiRico posited that the community would appreciate the renovations Tufts invested in. 

“I think that our neighbors will be very pleased with CoHo. All of the homes have been completely renovated. Tufts also improved the landscaping on each property, added bike racks, and will prohibit student parking in the neighborhood. Finally, we added lighting, fire suppression systems and TUPD blue boxes to enhance the safety and security of the neighborhood,” he said.

CoHo themed housing

CoHo includes two houses with specific living conditions, namely a house designated as a 24-hour quiet space as well as a substance-free house. However, according to Christopher Rossi, dean of student life and engagement, there are no themed houses set for 2019-20 school year. Themed housing will be implemented for the 2020-21 school year through a process that will be decided upon with students. 

The process will begin to roll out mid-fall semester of 2019, with themed housing ready for move-in in fall 2020Rossi said. The theme selection and funding process will be run by the ORLL, but according to Rossi, will offer opportunities for students to weigh-in.

Rossi stated that themed houses are currently allocated $200 in funding, with options to petition the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs for supplemental money. Looking ahead to themed housing in CoHo, Rossi wants to ensure students are involved with funding. 

“We also want to take students’ input on what the right funding model and level is, so we’re waiting until the fall because we want students to be involved in that process,” Rossi said.

He emphasized the importance of collaboration between the university and students when deciding upon themes and funding.

“We don’t want to take a proposal from groups like [Tufts Community Union] and then run with it — we want to make sure that both the student government and individual students who are looking to organize for specific things are involved every step of the way,” he said.


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