How can Boston be an innovation hub if it can’t even safely house its students?

Landlord Anwar Faisal has been the focus of Boston inspectors. (JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF)
Landlord Anwar Faisal has been the focus of Boston inspectors. (JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF)

Boston officials have never missed a chance to tout the city as an innovation hub that has the right ingredients to keep smart young workers here after they graduate.

But the officials apparently haven’t connected the dots between that idea and how students are actually treated while they’re here.

No doubt reflecting the thoughts of many, Northeastern professor Dan Kennedy blogs that he has been “certainly aware that many of our students live in less-than-ideal conditions.”

“But to the extent that I’d given it much thought, I had assumed the squalor was largely of the students’ making (see this, for instance), compounded by greedy landlords who pack too many residents into their buildings,” he writes.

This week’s “Shadow Campus” series from the Globe has shown Kennedy — and many others — that such things are “just the beginning” of the problem. The series documented widespread cases of absentee landlords profiting from renting out shoddy and unsafe apartments.

Count Mayor Martin J. Walsh among those who’ve had their eyes opened. The mayor has told the Globe that he plans to take measures, such as bringing $300 daily fines against scofflaw landlords, in response to the series.

Boston, one of the most concentrated hubs of innovation on the planet, has somehow failed to get the basics right for much of its huge student population.

Maybe that’s partly because, as Kennedy says, there has been a wrong assumption that housing squalor is primarily the students’ fault. Placing all of the blame on the stereotypical irresponsible student is easier than taking action against the well-heeled property owner.

Not all students are blameless, of course. But Boston clearly must get serious about protecting its students from bad actor landlords, something that will only help keep young people local after college.

Thoughts on the problem and how to solve it? Leave your comments below.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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