The vast majority of Tufts students have dealt first-hand with the inefficiencies and frustration that pervade the Tufts housing system. If you are a first-year, you will have to wait until well into spring semester to find out where and with whom you are living. If you are applying for group housing, your friend groups may be separated and your roommate groups may have to be redone several times because of a system that averages out lottery numbers in order to allot housing.
The situation as an upperclassman is far worse. There is no guarantee that Tufts will have housing available for juniors and seniors. This lack of guarantee causes many to look off campus. However, the high demand for off-campus housing (a combination of the growing Tufts population and the growing popularity of Somerville as a trendy and less expensive Boston alternative) leads many students to sign leases in October — eight or nine months before they start. Because the current housing lottery does not end until mid-spring, those upperclassmen who do not have great lottery numbers have no option but to look for off-campus housing, as waiting until mid-spring to hear about housing may be too great of a risk.
The high demand of housing in the areas surrounding Tufts campus has led to large rent hikes, a problem exacerbated by the fact that zoning limits in Medford and Somerville only allow three and four unrelated people to live in the same household, respectively. Landlords may also take advantage of the steady demand of Tufts students for off-campus housing as an opportunity to become negligent. Furthermore, the rising costs in Medford and Somerville that have been largely brought on by Tufts students being pushed off campus have led to strained relationships between the university and Medford/Somerville residents. This has all led to a housing crisis that has long needed to be fixed.
Because of this, the housing reforms that will take place in the next year are extraordinarily important. The proposed changes to the housing lottery system will make the process less stressful for students by reducing the timeline to just over two weeks (compared to the current system that operates on a timeline of more than two months). The system will require students to apply for housing as early as December, and those who cannot be accommodated on campus will know only a few weeks after having applied. Moreover, the reform also will allow groups to apply for apartment-style housing based only on the highest lottery number in the group, a reform that will allow friend groups to stay together. These reforms will make Residential Life more prepared to deal with all the incoming students that will be housed, and will generally improve the lottery process.
The other reform that is underway is Capen Village, an initiative that will create more housing for upperclassmen. This will not only relieve some of the demand for off-campus housing, but also provide for different social spaces on campus. There is the possibility that Capen Village will consist of themed houses, which is a great social initiative, particularly in light of the recent issues with Greek life. Themed houses for upperclassmen may reduce the prevalence of Greek life in students’ social lives by creating alternative social spaces.
The importance of these housing reforms cannot be understated. Not only will they be beneficial to the student population at large, but they will also improve the relationship between the university and the residents of Medford and Somerville.