Graduate housing report doubles 2014 housing shortage estimate

Report finds disconnect between students’ wants and current facilities

The Graduate Student Housing Working Group released its final report in an email to all graduate students Aug. 10. The report estimates a demand of 1,000 to 1,100 graduate housing spots, which is double the number originally recommended in the 2014 graduate housing report. As of now, MIT has committed to 950 new beds for graduate students across campus, with 250 to be available in 2020, according to a letter sent to all graduate students in October 2017 after the working group's interim report was published.

Orpheus Chatzivasileiou G, member of the working group, wrote in an email to The Tech that this report motivated the administration’s commitment to more graduate housing on campus, led to the creation of the implementation team, which has already run pilot studies on altering housing lottery assignments, and set forth a follow-up procedure to measure progress.

When compared with the previous graduate housing report, Chatzivasileiou wrote that the most recent report included more student involvement and specific guidelines for follow-up. “This report is not the end, but rather the beginning of a continuous process … to constantly reevaluate and improve the landscape of graduate housing,” Chatzivasileiou wrote.

The final report is a culmination of a year's worth of analysis by the working group, which also drew on insights from the Graduate Student Council’s 2017 Graduate Housing Needs Survey, the 2017 Graduate Student Life Survey, and numerous other sources.

Thirty percent or more of graduate students listed finances as at least moderately stressful in all five schools, and 60 percent of graduate students were also dissatisfied with the availability and cost of housing, which composed on average 55 percent of graduate student expenses, according to the 2017 Graduate Student Life Survey.

The 2017 Graduate Housing Needs Survey found that 23 percent of students living off campus would prefer to live on campus for the entire duration of their program, an increase from 11 percent according to a survey from March 2013. This increase corresponds to increases in housing demand across the city. The report estimates that due to job growth in Cambridge, 1,100 to 1,200 additional employees will live in the city, which does not include increases in residents working outside of Cambridge. The report connects this increase in space with a decrease in rental units between 2000-15, though it also shows that during a similar period, the number of owner occupied residences increased.

The gap between students’ wants and the state of current graduate housing is not only availability. According to the report, students valued short commute time and air conditioning, but were less willing to pay for bedroom size, a gym (and other amenities), a sense of community, or parking. Yet, the newer graduate dorms, Warehouse, Sidpac, and Ashdown, all include fitness centers and have large common areas. Some of the dorm rooms, like most of Sidpac, include predominantly large bedrooms.

The report goes on to recommend a balanced budget while maintaining facilities, citing a current revenue gap of $5 million and a high percentage of housing vacancy: nine percent during the last academic year and 28 percent over the summer. To combat the budget gap, the report suggests a few changes, like more flexibility in housing assignments, conversion of common space to units, increasing rent, and a well-defined process to make these policy changes.

Much of the data used in this report came from surveys, which the report acknowledges maybe be subject to response bias, which can be reduced by having large participation. The response rate for the 2017 Graduate Housing Needs Survey was 19 percent.