Continuum, a 325-unit residential and retail complex located on Harvard-owned land by Barry’s Corner, offers one, two and three-bedroom apartments. After it began leasing units in Aug. 2015, Continuum initially struggled to fill its residential spaces. In Oct. 2015, 23 percent of the housing units had been leased to residents, and in Feb. 2016, that number rose to 40 percent.
Kevin Cleary, a real estate agent for Re/Max in Boston, said he thinks Continuum has been leasing residential units to third-party investors. He said this maneuver would allow third parties to list the apartments as short-term rentals, which permit individuals to lease a unit for fewer than 30 consecutive days.
Molly Kalan, a marketing activations and PR manager for Samuels & Associates— a firm Harvard chose as the developer of the property in 2012—wrote in an emailed statement that the “vast majority” of tenants at Continuum are long-term renters.
But Continuum does rent out units to third-party operators, according to Kalan.
Cleary said he thinks short-term rentals—which he called a new phenomenon in Allston—may allow Continuum to boast “artificially” low vacancy rates.
Calling the strategy “convenient,” Cleary said he believes leasing apartments to third-party operators allows Continuum to continue to ask for high rents for its apartments. As of 2015, the average rent for an apartment in Boston was $2,100, around $200 less than the price of a studio apartment in Continuum.
“Most landlords don’t want to have short-term renters in their building—it’s just not good turnover, you have the wear and tear and all that,” Cleary said. “But in buildings like Continuum, if you can rent large blocks of apartments to a third-party operator, then that’s their responsibility.”
Kalan, though, wrote in her email that short-term rentals form a logistical necessity.
“Because of the close proximity of the building to the colleges, healthcare organizations, and large businesses of Cambridge and Boston, as well as public transit options, there is interest from a wide array of individuals... for shorter periods in conjunction with business needs or executive education programs,” Kalan wrote in her email. “We do provide leases to operators to support that need.”
The topic of short-term rentals is not only impacting Allston, but is also sparking conversations in the surrounding area about the housing market.
In Jan. 2018, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh submitted an ordinance to the City Council meant to establish guidelines for short-term rentals in the area.
“We know that the unchecked commercialization of short-term rental uses in residential properties has potential to increase pressure on our already strained housing market,” he wrote in the ordinance. “This ordinance outlines reasonable restrictions on short-term rental uses designed to mitigate the loss of long-term housing units to a short-term market.”
—Staff writer Truelian Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @truelian_lee.
—Staff writer Jacqueline P. Patel can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jppatel99.
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