University to Try for Rent BoardSwitch

Harvard has officially petitioned the Cambridge Rent Control Board to reconsider its recent refusal to approve a $2.5 million renovation at the Craigie Arms apartments, city officials said yesterday

With landlord representative Sally Ackerman siding against Harvard, the rent board voted 3-2 on December 28 to deny the University permits to remove the building's 60 units from the city's tight housing market.

Harvard has argued that the removal permits are essential because the proposed renovation of the 80-year-old building--which would convert it to luxury units--could not be performed with the building occupied

Representatives of the Cambridge Rent Control Coalition, an alliance of the seven city tenant groups, have opposed the removal permits, arguing that the renovation would drive rents in most of the buildings beyond the reach of the low and moderate-income tenants which Cambridge's rent control ordinances protect

Rent Control Executive Director Roger Mervis said yesterday that the University filed the petition at Wednesday's rent board meeting, adding that the five-member body will schedule a hearing on the request tomorrow

"It's a fairly substantial piece of work," Mervis said. He added that the board will probably rule on the petition "before the end of the month."

Ackerman said Monday she would be willing to change her decisive vote only if the agency establishes clear guidelines for granting similar permits in future cases, particularly those involving smaller landlords

Despite the rent board's refusal to approve the renovation. Harvard probably will not consider renting the building's apartments to low and moderate income tenants as an alternative to renovation, a University spokesman said last week