Green Line Extension and gentrification

The butt of many jokes, the Green Line Extension project (GLX) is nevertheless a substantial infrastructural undertaking with considerable repercussions on the Boston Metro Area. The project has been in the planning stages since the 1990s, and construction finally began in 2012—four years ago. The extension is nowhere near finished.

The latest headlines concerning GLX revolve around the increased cost of the project and the effect this cost will have on the government’s budget. However, another concerning consequence of the Green Line extension is the hike in housing prices. This consequence is extremely important to Tufts students and residents of the Somerville/Medford area.

For those who have not yet seen a map of the proposed GLX, the plan is to add six stops to the MBTA’s Green Line and relocate one current stop. Among these new stops is one at the intersection of College Avenue and Boston Avenue, right on campus (very close to Brown and Brew). The addition of a T-stop on campus is more than welcome for those who need to get to Boston quickly and for those tired of the “Tufts bubble.” Even the Tufts administration is thrilled by the addition of the College Avenue stop. This sentiment is clearly expressed by the announcement that Tufts will build a new 100,000 square-foot building above and around the T-stop.

Although the addition of a T-stop along College Avenue may seem like a convenient measure for both Tufts students and faculty, the repercussions of GLX should continue to give pause to those members of the Tufts community worried about the implications of having so many new people in the area.

According to an article published by The Boston Globe in 2014, rent in the areas near new MBTA stops could increase by as much as 67 percent. In Somerville, this is important as around two-thirds of the residents are tenants rather than landlords. Students at Tufts are affected as well, especially those on financial aid. The Tufts Office of Financial Aid allots $13,094 to students who receive financial aid for room and board. This amount does not change regardless of whether students live on or off campus. However, the amount is based on a nine-month school year, not the regular 12-month lease, forcing students to stretch that allowance to cover the extra three months. Additionally, Tufts does not take into account the increased rent prices in its calculations of financial aid.

While low-income students will certainly have to bear the burden of increasing rent prices in the area, it is a burden that they will, in all likelihood, only have to bear for two years. Residents of Somerville that are not affiliated to Tufts will experience the negative impact of the new stop in the long run. Most permanent residents of Somerville will have to seek lower rent prices elsewhere.

This story of displacement is not new — the Davis Square T-stop was added in the 1980s. One could argue that adding another T stop will set off a whole new age of the Somerville-Medford area, whatever follows young, yuppie, hipster professionals warring against longtime residents. Similar repercussions to the ones currently predicted were observed then. For decades, Tufts University has been a large contributing factor to the gentrification of the Somerville/Medford area. And while Davis Square may now be “prettier,” it has also lost much of the diversity in class and life experience, that attracts people in the first place.

It is clear that the extension of the Green Line will be a positive change in a variety of ways. However, it is imperative to look at the situation from outside of the Tufts upper-middle class bubble and realize that convenience often comes with a cost.