MIT has just given the Cambridge Housing Authority the last of the three buildings in a $17.1 million federal Turnkey project which provides 684 living units for the elderly.
"The MIT project is the largest Turnkey public housing development in the nation and first ever to be sponsored by an educational institution," the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development said.
Under the Turnkey program, a private developer acquires a site, constructs the buildings, and then gives them to the local housing authority. The local authority reimburses the developer with financing provided by HUD through the Housing Assistance Administration.
The MIT apartments were turned over to the Cambridge Housing Authority last Thursday.
"The Turnkey project is the result of an overall community program at MIT to ease the housing problem in Cambridge," Walter L. Milne, special assistant on urban relations at MIT, said yesterday. "We built what we hope are damned good units that will give people a quality life."
In the last six years Harvard has constructed a total of 210 units of federally subsidized housing for the city of Cambridge, according to Donald C. Moulton, vice president on community affairs.
"Our practical experience is that you lose money on these projects," Moulton said. The University does have a responsibility to the community to ease housing pressure, he added, but plans to build no large housing units in the immediate future.
Milne said that MIT "definitely took a loss on the Turnkey project." MIT plans are to generate activities that will give employment to Cambridge residents in addition to housing," he added.
The Cambridge Tenants' Organizing Committee criticized the MIT project for being exclusively for the elderly. "Housing for the elderly is just easy politics and an MIT public relations stunt," Jeff Liev of the committee said.
"The biggest need in Cambridge is for low income family housing because not a single unit has been built in the last 20 years," he added. Liev said MIT should have constructed an equal ratio of family and elderly housing.
John Donovan, assistant executive director of the Cambridge Housing Authority said that future Cambridge housing projects will stress family units. "When the MIT project was being planned in 1968, the greatest need was for elderly housing. The MIT project has helped fill the gap."
The MIT project is in three separate locations: at Hamilton St. in Cambridgeport, on Clarendon Ave. in North Cambridge, and on Gore St. in East Cambridge