Off-Campus Housing

Where to Live

On this page you will find HGSE student recommendations on various neighborhoods, as well as general information about off-campus housing.

Maps

Before you can decide where to live, you need to understand where areas are located. Searching for Appian Way, Cambridge, MA 02138, on Google Maps provides a great guide as well.

The subway stop closest to HGSE is Harvard on the Red Line. Many students find it convenient to live near the Red Line stops of Porter, Davis, and Central. Detailed information on public transportation, known as the "T," can be found at www.mbta.com.

Where do HGSE Students Live?

A vast majority of Ed School Students usually live in the greater Boston area; with Cambridge, Somerville, and Watertown having the highest concentrations.

Off-Campus Housing

Resources for Your Off-Campus Housing Search

  • Harvard University Housing has engaged Off Campus Partners to create the a site that maintains a list of rental units offered by private landlords and real estate agents. There is also an option to search for roommates and for Harvard University Housing sublets. Visit harvardhousingoffcampus.com to begin your search.
  • Other sites, such as ourhomeboston.comApartmentList, craigslist, hotpads, padmapper, trulia, zillow, and zumper are popular public resources when looking for housing arrangements and roommates. (*Please note: HGSE does not endorse any of these websites).

General Housing Hunting Tips

  • Most apartments in Boston are listed by real estate agencies, so you will most likely end up working with a real estate agent to find a place. A full real estate "finder's fee" is usually one month's rent, although some apartment listings will offer a reduced or waived fee, depending on the agreement with the landord. It is possible to find independent apartment listings that are shown and rented directly by the landord, but this is fairly uncommon in the Boston area.
  • Be prepared to act quickly (submit an application and deposit) once you have found the housing you want.
  • Plan for significant up-front expenses to secure your lease--up to four months' rent for realtor fees, security deposit, first and/or last month's rent etc.
  • If possible, pay by check or money order so you can keep a record.
  • Before you sign a lease, make sure you read it thoroughly! If you have any questions, ask your realtor or landlord.

Rare included features:

  • Pets allowed
  • Off-street parking (even on-street parking is rare)
  • Furnished units
  • In-unit washer & dryer
  • Utilities included (except heat and hot water)

Rent Cost

Monthly rates in the Boston area are well above the national average and vary widely by location and condition. As a very general guideline, below are average rates:

Cambridge

  • Studio $1,400 & up
  • One bedroom $1,800 & up
  • Two bedrooms $2,100 & up
  • Three bedrooms $3,400 & up

Outside Cambridge*

  • Studio $1,000-$1,350
  • One bedroom $1,150-$1,700
  • Two bedrooms $1,250-$1,900
  • Three bedrooms $1,700-$2,300

*Does not include Brookline and Boston.

Important Note for International Students

Many international students have experienced difficulties securing housing due to lack of credit history in the U.S.

  • Current students recommend that you rent with Harvard University Housing, because they regularly work with international students.
  • When looking for housing, be sure you have U.S. funds available so you can submit an application and deposit without delay.
  • It may also help for you to have photocopies of your Admissions letter and I-20 or DS-2019
 

Health & Safety Codes

Houses and apartment buildings in the state of Massachusetts are governed by the Massachusetts State Building Code as well as other life/safety codes. These codes help protect anyone who enters the structure. Building owners must comply with these codes when constructing or renovating any structure.

If you have any concerns about the property, ask these questions to learn more about a prospective apartment, so that you can be aware of any safety or code violations that may exist in the structure.

  • Does the building currently meet all necessary requirements of the State Building Code?
  • What type of smoke detector system does the unit have? Are there 110 volt smoke detectors in all common areas and/or 110 volt or battery detectors in each unit near all bedrooms? Is it a local system or connected to the fire department?
  • Does the apartment or house contain lead paint? Has it been tested for lead paint (especially important if there will be children in the apartment)?
  • Does the apartment or house contain asbestos? Has it been tested for asbestos?
  • Does the apartment have two means of unobstructed egress. If a fire escape is present, has it been tested and/or certified by the local authority having jurisdiction?
  • Is the electrical system fuses or circuit breakers and has it been updated recently?
  • Are there window security bars present and can the bars be removed easily by the occupant if egress is needed?
  • Is there a CO (carbon monoxide) detector present and/or is there any fuel source item present in the building that would warrant a detector?
  • Are all the window and door locks in good working order?
  • Are the front and back doors as well as the street well lit?
For more information please visit the Massachusetts Government's Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation website: Tenant Rights and Responsibilities.
 

Student Opinions on Where to Live

The following summaries and comments about various areas were compiled from student feedback.

Allston/Brighton:

Distance from campus: 2 miles

Minutes to Campus: 
Walking:  30
Biking:  12
Driving:  7
Via Public Transportation:  15-30

Public Transportation Access: 
The #66 and #86 bus routes go right to Harvard Square. Depending where you live, you may have to take the T (green line) or another bus to catch the #66 or #86.

Parking: 
Parking spots may be included with your apartment lease. Residents need to have a parking sticker from the City of Boston for on-street parking if they are not provided with a spot. The same permit can be used to to park in Allston or Brighton.

Pros and Cons: 
Pros:

  • Parking is available; there are spots included with many apartments, as well as a lot of on-street availability
  • Everything you need for day-to-day living is close
  • You can live in a real house with a kitchen, good living space, own bathroom, etc.

Cons:

  • Access in some areas to restaurants and entertainment is limited
  • Outside of the bus, there is little access to public transportation

Boston:

Distance from campus: 5 miles

Minutes to campus: 
Walking:  60+
Biking:  25-30
Driving:  16
Via Public Transportation:  30-40

Public Transportation Access: 
The Green Line is accessible at various points in Back Bay. The Orange Line is also accessible at the Back Bay station (close to the South End on Dartmouth Street). In order to get to HGSE via public transportation, you need to take either the Green (usually more convenient) or Orange line to the Park Street stop (3-5 stops). At Park, transfer to the Red Line and get off at the Harvard Square stop.

There is also adequate bus service in the area, but the T tends to be the most convenient. To get to HGSE, take the #1 bus from Massachusetts Avenue (may be a long walk depending on where you live in Back Bay) to Harvard Square. This would be about 25 minutes door-to-door (and you have to wait outside in the cold during the winter).

Parking: 
There is extremely limited street parking, so plan on getting a spot in a nearby parking garage $250 - $400/month, if a spot is not included with your apartment. If you want to attempt street parking, a Back Bay Resident parking sticker is required. There are also parking meters on selected streets (e.g. Newbury Street) but again, this is not typically a viable solution given the demand for parking in the area.

Pros and Cons: 
Pros:

  • There is a lot to do in the area (nightlife, etc.) and you are right in the heart of Boston, close to everything the city has to offer.
  • The architecture and urban design of Back Bay is really striking (19th century mansions). It is truly a beautiful area.
  • Back Bay sits along the Charles River, providing access to running/biking trails. The Public Garden and Boston Common park areas are within walking distance.

Cons:

  • Back Bay (along with Beacon Hill) is one of the most expensive areas of Boston in which to live. Expect very expensive rent in this area.
  • Parking can be a problem. Street parking is difficult and a prospective tenant should expect pay for a monthly parking spot if their apartment complex does not offer one.
  • Back Bay is relatively far away from the HGSE campus.

Brookline:

Distance from campus: 4 miles

Minutes to campus: 
Walking:  60+
Biking:  50-60
Driving:  15
Via Public Transportation:  40-50

Public Transportation Access: 
Throughout Brookline, there is access to the 66 bus line (which takes you right to Harvard Square). Also, there is access to the Green line (both the C and D lines are available). If you take the bus, it is fairly quick, about 30 minutes (even less if there is no traffic). If you take the T, it is much longer (about an hour), because you have to go all the way out to Park Street and switch to the Red line, which then brings you into Harvard Square.

Parking: 
Unfortunately, Brookline has a law that there is no overnight parking on the streets. You can find lots where you have to pay a monthly fee, or your apartment may have one included.

Pros and Cons: 
Pros:

  • The biggest pro to living in Brookline is that you live in a real neighborhood with real people. Small apartments and spaced houses give a pleasant suburban feel, with sidewalks to reach convenient stores and restaurants, and excellent connections to downtown.
  • Public transportation is very easily accessible, which makes running errands and going out on the town much more feasible. Even within Brookline, there are a lot of things to do without having to worry about getting there.

Cons:

  • The biggest cons are the expenses and the commute. Rents are high, and it's a lengthy ride to campus by bus. Since having a car is strongly recommended, parking can also be a bit of a hassle, so it is best to look for a place that has available spots.

Cambridgeport:

Distance from campus: 3 miles

Minutes to campus: 
Walking:  15
Biking:  10
Driving:  10
Via Public Transportation:  10-20

Public Transportation Access: 
Unless you live close to Central Square, you will not be very close to the T stop, but buses are available. Students can take the #70 bus to campus. Other buses also go to Central Square and from there you take the T downtown (the Red Line).

Parking: 
Parking is fairly easy with a permit. You can get a permit from the City of Cambridge by sending in an application with proof of address and a small fee. Many places in the area come with parking.

Pros and Cons: 
Pros:

  • Fairly close to campus
  • Good prices for the space
  • Close enough to walk to Harvard and Central Squares (stores, etc.)
  • Easy to have a car

Cons:

  • Depending on where you live, the commute can be tough
  • Access to restaurants and entertainment is somewhat limited

Central Square:

Distance from campus: 1.7 miles

Minutes to campus: 
Walking:  25
Biking:  10
Driving:  7
Via Public Transportation:  10-20

Public Transportation Access: 
City buses run throughout Central Square. The #1 bus runs right to Harvard Square. Also, there is easy access to the T (the Red line), which goes directly to Harvard Square and Park Street (where you can change to other colored T lines).

Parking: 
There is a lot of on-street parking available south of Massachusetts Ave. Parking north of Massachusetts Ave is available, but very crowded. Both areas require a permit, which is very easy to get. There are also a few lots for uncovered parking available for $100-150/month.

Pros and Cons: 
Pros:

  • Many people in the area are young professionals or grad school students
  • Less expensive than living in Harvard Square, Soldiers Field Park, or One Western Ave (dorms are still cheaper though)
  • 20 minute walk to Harvard Square
  • Very close to the T

Cons:

  • Boston winter weather makes the commute kind of rough (when walking)

Harvard Square:

Distance from campus: < 1 mile

Minutes to campus: 
Walking:  5-10
Biking:  5
Driving:  5-10

Public Transportation Access 
City buses run throughout Harvard Square. Also, there is easy access to the T (the Red line), which goes directly to Park Street (where you can change to other colored T lines).

Parking 
Both on street parking and many garage spots are available. Permits can be obtained at City of Cambridge website (look under parking and transportation). Permit includes 1 temporary guest pass (good for any guest at any time) and one sticker and lasts for 1 year.

Pros and Cons: 
Pros:

  • Chauncy St. and a few others are very "neighborhoody" and quaint compared to many other places people live--lots of dogs being walked, trees, and it's close to a park.
  • Parking is pretty easy: lots of permit street parking, decent amount of garage spaces, and tons of metered spots on Mass Ave.
  • The center of the Square gives you everything you need for day to day living.

Cons:

  • Rent in Harvard Square can be quite expensive.

Somerville/Davis Square:

Distance from campus: 3 miles

Minutes to campus: 
Walking:  30-40
Biking:  20
Driving:  10
Via Public Transportation:  20

Public Transportation Access: 
The Davis T stop (Red Line) is accessible to many locations by foot. Travel time to Harvard T stop is roughly 10-15 minutes (including wait for train). Buses are also available to Harvard Square.

Parking: 
A lot of apartments come with parking spots, but for those that don't, on-street parking is usually available. A permit is required, and can be purchased for less than $10 from Town Hall.

Pros and Cons: 
Pros:

  • Much bigger/better apartments with parking space in nice neighborhood for less money than other neighborhoods in the area
  • Most services are close by and readily accessible
  • Plenty of shopping and entertainment

Cons:

  • Commute to campus can be lengthy if not right in Davis Square or near bus route
  • Some areas are not T-accessible