Live as close to the GSD as possible, or as close as you are willing and can afford to live. A good radius would be within a fifteen-minute walk. The rough limits of that are Central Square to the southwest, Inman Square to the east, Kirkland Street at Beacon Street to the northeast, and a little below Porter Square to the north. If you have a bike, it's about a five-minute ride.
Although you might wish to live alone, studio and one-bedroom apartments can be quite expensive. The more bedrooms there are in an apartment, the cheaper each room tends to be. Quite a few GSD students enjoy living with fellow GSD-ers or graduate students from other Harvard schools.
Housing at Harvard
Harvard University Housing (HUH) offers a broad range of housing and real estate services to the University’s graduate students, faculty, and employees. For information on Harvard Housing options, visit their website and submit all required information prior to May 1st for the best selection available. There are many additional housing resources on their website, including a roommate matching service.
The GSD is allotted a number of rooms in GSAS (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences) dormitories. Students live with other students from GSAS, HKS (Harvard Kennedy School), GSE (Graduate School of Education), and some students from other programs. This housing type consists of single graduate rooms with basic furniture and offers one large single-sex bathroom and a kitchen on each floor. All halls except Conant have a lounge on each floor and some lounges have a television. Phone service, laundry facilities, a study room, a computer room, and free internet access are also available. Students living in the dormitories are required to sign up for a meal plan at Dudley House (GSAS dining hall and student center) for the entire year at an additional cost. This housing type is particularly helpful to international students and those not familiar to the area. Every floor has a resident advisor to assist residents and the halls can provide a lively and social atmosphere. All for halls are within close proximity to the GSD.
Cronkhite Graduate Center
Housing in the Cronkhite Graduate Center is offered to students from GSD, GSAS, HKS, and GSE. Housing is similar to a dormitory, but offers a more private setting. All floors are co-ed and have either single rooms or two-bedroom suites. All rooms provide basic furniture. Each floor provides several separate bathrooms for men and women or residents in single rooms. Each two-bedroom suite has a bathroom and small living area between the two bedrooms. Laundry facilities, phone service, and internet service are available to students. Four Residential Advisers live within the center to provide assistance to the residents and a reception desk is open seven days a week until 10pm to also assist residents and visitors. Residents are required to purchase a meal plan and residents eat Monday-Friday at the Cronkhite Center Dining Room. A 10 meal-per-week board contract is mandatory. The dining hall offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Harvard University Graduate Commons
The Graduate Commons program was started in 2008 by Harvard Real Estate Services in collaboration with Harvard Graduate and Professional Schools. This unique program provides an opportunity for Harvard graduate students to step across school boundaries in a relaxed setting and interact with students outside of their own academic programs. This cross-discipline collaboration and social interaction outside of the classroom fosters a greater sense of community for the Harvard graduate student population.
Each property has a Harvard faculty member living in-house who is the intellectual leader of the community and hosts several events throughout the academic year. Leases include heat, hot water, electricity, central air-conditioning, and RESnet internet connection. Fitness, Common, Study, and Recycling rooms are also available on-site. Two of the properties in the Graduate Commons program—10 Akron and 5 Cowperthwaite—are LEED Certified buildings.
Programming includes Social Events (Holiday Party, Sunday Night Dinners with Faculty, Wine Sessions…), Intellectual Events (Meet the Scholar Lecture Series, Fireside Chats, Author Events…), Cultural Events (Iftar Dinner, Sushi Rolling Party…), Outings (Theater Performances, Boston Pops Holiday Show…), Wellness Events (Clothing Drive, Flag Football, Service Days…).
To learn more, visit the Graduate Commons blog.
Finding Housing 1: Harvard Housing
The GSD receives an allotment of dorm rooms in GSAS dorms. Students must apply for dorms and affiliated housing in the spring. Dorms are convenient for those wanting a furnished place and a meal plan, but most GSD students move into apartments after a year in the dorms. The Harvard Housing Office provides apartment and roommate listings and also oversees Affiliate Housing.
Finding Housing 2: Independent Rentals
Often the best way to go. You’ll have the greatest variety of options for location, price, number of roommates and pets. Many realtors list their apartments online. Local newspapers are also a good source for apartment listings. If you think you’ll be away from Cambridge over the summer and will want to sublet your place, ask your potential landlord ahead of time if they allow subletting.
A great place to start your off-campus housing search is Harvard Housing Off Campus. This is an independent site that the Harvard Housing Office has contracted with to provide a resource to the Harvard community. You will find posts about roommate openings in existing apartments and about full apartments available to rent. This site is also the only official place to post sublets in Harvard-owned housing properties.
Additional Housing Information
GSD Housing Facebook Group
The GSD Housing Facebook Group is a great way to connect with other incoming students and current students. Students have found roommates, sublets, and rooms using this site.
Tenant Rights & Responsibilities
The Massachusetts government provides an easy to read pamphlet called “Tenant Rights and Responsibilities” (PDF) that’s helpful when you’re moving from another state (or country) and you’d like to know what’s covered by state law.
Cost of Heat
When looking for an apartment pay attention to whether heat is included in the price of rent. Often it is not, and cold winters can make for high heating bills, especially if the furnace is powered by oil. (Note: Heat and hot water are included in all housing offered by Harvard.)
Fees and Deposits
Many apartment rentals in the Boston area have broker’s fees to be paid by the tenant. If you are hunting from afar, the broker’s fee can be worth it—the apartment market here can be hard to navigate. The fee is typically one-half month to a full month’s rent.
Most landlords ask for the first and last month’s rent in addition to a security deposit (usually equal to one month’s rent) when you sign a lease.
Several years ago, nine GSD students and two alums lost everything they owned when multiple units were destroyed in a fire in Somerville. The message from them to you: get renter’s insurance. For roughly $15 a month, you can get $15,000 in personal item coverage. It usually covers almost all of your possessions, from bikes to computers to books, and protects from theft, fire, flood, vandalism, lighting and natural disasters. Many companies even offer “accidental damage” coverage for when you drop or spill liquid on your electronics.
Harvard Housing Office
The Harvard Housing Office is a great place to search for non-Harvard-owned housing, including houses, apartments/condominiums, and rooms for rent that have been listed by local landlords and real estate brokers. It maintains lists of Roommate Cards (but does not provide roommate matching), sublet offerings, and a listing network. Several hundred listings are available each year, especially during peak months of May through September. Remember to bring either a valid Harvard I.D. or a letter of admission and a photo I.D. in order to enter the Harvard Housing Office.
Harvard Housing Office
7 Holyoke Street (Harvard Square)
Cambridge, MA 02138
617-495-3777 or 800-252-5020
Online and Print Resources
Many realtors and students list their housing online. You'll have the greatest variety of options for apartment location, price range, number of roommates and pets. Note that broker's fees may apply. If you think you'll be away from Cambridge over the summer, and will want to sublet your place, you can ask your potential landlord ahead of time if they allow subletting (as many do). The best thing you can do is plan ahead when it comes to housing. If you know someone local, perhaps they can check out buildings and areas for you. Use all resources available.
Local newspapers are a good source of information on available apartments in the Cambridge/Boston/Somerville area. A housing supplement is distributed by The Harvard Crimson in April. Extra copies are available at the Crimson office on 14 Plympton Street.