Tenant Union, HREDispute Abatements
Members of the Harvard Tenants Union (HTU) met last night and decided to continue investigating ways to recover more than $500,000 they say the University owes them.
"We are consulting with lawyers and looking into the complaint process of the Rent Control Board." Michael Turk, an HTU organizer, said. The HTU has charged Harvard in recent weeks with obtaining $500,000 in tax abatements from the city government and not passing the savings on to tenants.
Harvard Real Estate housing officer Lorraine Wade yesterday sent a letter to tenants of many of the buildings allegedly affected by the abatements responding to the charges.
"In the mid-1970s, Harvard noticed that the taxes being paid on your building were too high in proportion to the rents being paid. The Cambridge Tax Assessor agreed and lowered the taxes to bring them in line with the rents," Wade's letter states.
"If Harvard had then further lowered the rents, as our critics contend, the taxes would again have been too high," it continues. "Keep in mind that Harvard could have asked for higher rents in the mid-1970s to bring them in line with the higher taxes," the letter states.
HTU officials also reported the preliminary results of an "energy audit" of Harvard-owned buildings. Their survey, answered by over 100 tenants, showed most Harvard-owned apartments lacked storm windows on "weathertight" windows, the organizers said.
More surveys will be distributed and tabulated, and the final results made public later this spring, they added.