Nearly 100 impatient Peabody Terrace residents voted last night to ask Harvard for a one-year moratorium on their recently-announced rent increases after they questioned L. Gard Wiggins, administrative vice-president, about the financial figures on married-student housing.
The resolution asks that the year be used to discuss rents with representatives from Peabody Terrace, that a decision on rents be reached by next January 1, and that the Corporation accept or reject the moratorium by May 15.
New tenants are specifically included in the moratorium. The resolution will now be circulated as a petition and presented to President Pusey next week.
The tenants discussed stating that they will withhold the increased portions of their rents, but decided to wait until the Corporation responds before taking any stand on that action.
One student asked Wiggins if, after the discussion of expenses, he felt that there was room for reevaluation of the rent increase. "At the moment I don't see how that could be done. I will pass on some of your comments to the treasurer and other officers," Wiggins said.
Shepard Brown '50, vice president of Hunneman and Co., a local real estate firm that manages Harvard properties, came with Wiggins and explained some of the items.
Tenants at Holden Green, another apartment house for married students, met Monday and resolved that the rent raise is unjustified and that representatives from each of the apartment houses should meet with Harvard to discuss rents and Harvard's relationship with Hunneman. Their resolutions are also being circulated in a petition to go to Pusey in a letter next week.
Several Peabody tenants told Wiggins that even if Harvard is losing money on the apartments it should keep the rents down. "People simply can't afford the increases. They'll have to move," Irene Dawson, one of the meetings four organizers, said. Arthur E. Yama, another one of the four, said that it is a question of priorities and of who should make policy decisions involving the allocation of Harvard's money.
"Mr. Wiggins is a very well-intentioned man. There were certain aspects of the rent increase which seemed not to have been examined carefully enough by the University itself," Arthur A. Klein, teaching fellow in General Education, said after the meeting. Klein spoke for an economics committee which has been examining the figures since receiving them on Monday.
Klein questioned whether Peabody is run efficiently, and whether Harvard has sufficient control over Hunneman. He pointed out that one-third of Peabody's rent income pays for basic expenses only, a ratio appropriate for a luxury apartment according to one consultant.
A lot of criticism centered upon the inclusion of $30,000 to waterproof the Peabody Terrace buildings as a current operating expense instead of as a capital improvement. This way the expenditure is accounted as occuring in one year instead of over forty
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