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Rising Prices Keep Plaguing Cambridge Housing Rentals

Rising Prices Keep Plaguing Cambridge Housing Rentals

As with other neighborhoods around Boston, housing prices are on the rise in Cambridge. A combination of housing scarcity across the city, a growing population, and the availability of more jobs is creating a demand for places to live. Tenants, in turn, are increasingly particular with their wants and needs. While most neighborhoods in Boston are answering that call by building, renovating, and selling, Cambridge is taking legal action to regulate short-term rentals. Officials in the city realize that affordable housing is falling by the wayside, and they wish to keep it available for Boston's residents who might otherwise get priced out of apartments and condominiums.

Cambridge is just North of Back Bay, which is one of Boston's oldest and most prestigious neighborhoods. Cambridge, like several other suburbs, is physically separated from Boston proper. It lies across the Charles River from the city, and is home to Harvard University. Because of its proximity to schools and transportation, rental prices in Cambridge are among the highest in Boston. Across all rentals, the average monthly rental price is $2,977. That is about $700 per month higher than the average rental price for an apartment within Boston, where the average price is $2,200. Renting a studio apartment in Cambridge is a bit closer to Boston's average, with an approximate monthly rental rate of $2,315. For that amount of money, tenants can expect to get an apartment that is around 495 SF. For a one-bedroom rental in Cambridge, the average monthly rental rate is $2,694. The average size for a one-bedroom apartment is approximately 724 SF. Renters can get a two-bedroom apartment in Cambridge for approximately $3,477 per month. A two-bedroom place covers an average area of 1,064 SF. For an average price of $4,111 per month, one can get a four-bedroom unit in Cambridge that covers about 1,358 SF in size. Variations in pricing also differ based on select areas within Cambridge. Within this neighborhood, the highest average rental prices are in East Cambridge, where the average monthly rental rate is over $3,200. The least expensive place to rent is West Cambridge, where average monthly rental rates are about $2,500.

To combat escalating rental rates, Cambridge officials are implementing some policies that will keep a range of housing options available to prospective tenants while ensuring that they have safe, clean living spaces. One major component of a regulations passed recently by the Cambridge City Council is the requirement that hosts and owners live in or adjacent to the building that they use for short-term rentals. This component is a response to officials' concerns (a sentiment echoed in other Boston neighborhoods) that owners are buying buildings to turn them into investment opportunities. This measure drew support from the Massachusetts Lodging Association, which calls it a common sense move to increase tenants' safety and protect housing stock within the city.

Another rule established by the Cambridge City Council will require hosts who list short-term rental places online, such as Airbnb, to register first with the city before listing their places to the public. Short-term rental units will also have to undergo mandatory inspections once every five years. This measure, city officials say, will help Cambridge crack down on unsafe places and eliminate housing problems like illegal hotels. The City Council's rules will affect about 90,000 residents who are currently renting out short-term places online. In addition to the rules above, there is some discussion of officials imposing taxes on short-term rentals that are listed for a specific number of days per year. A bill has also been proposed to require insurance for short-term renters, and to tighten the first round of safety laws.

Following Cambridge's success, several other neighborhoods in Boston, and towns beyond the city, are considering establishing their own short-term rental policies. However, they want to create rules that fit their unique characteristics. Housing needs in Cambridge, for instance, are quite different from those of towns in Cape Cod. Across all cities and neighborhoods, the goal is create fair home sharing rules that consider the needs of tenants and building owners, while establishing a level of safety and affordability for renters. There is no cap on the number of nights that owners can let tenants stay in their apartments for.