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Board Nullifies Evictions of Sumner Road Tenants

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Tenants of 7 Sumner Rd. won the right to stay in their homes for the time being last week, when the Cambridge Rent Board upheld a recommendation from a city examiner denying Harvard the right to evict them.

The Rent Board agreed with examiner Kimberley Fletcher that the University had not properly terminated leases on six of the 16 units in the building. Arguing that Harvard could not convert the building if the six tenants remained, Fletcher recommended that no evictions be allowed.

The Graduate School of Design plans to use the four-story brick building for office space.

Harvard officials announced they would appeal the decision in Middlesex Third District Court. That court's decision could be appealed in Middlesex County Superior Court.

University officials can begin eviction proceedings again later this summer when existing leases run out, Rent Board officials said.

"It will take them a couple of months to get another eviction certificate," David Sullivan, a tenant organizer, said last week. "That will put Harvard in the position of having to evict people in the middle of the winter. I don't know if they will want to do that," Sullivan said.

University officials were unavailable for comment. Maurice Kilbridge, dean of the design school, said last month that the school had several options for temporary office space if the Sumner Rd. plans fell through. Alternatives include rental space in the Square and University-owned offices underneath Memorial Hall.

Solomon Shapiro, lawyer for the Sumner Rd. tenants, cited unexpired leases in his defense but also argued that the Cambridge housing emergency made it imperative to stop the evictions.

Vacancy rates in Cambridge housing average less than I per cent, but sources on the Rent Board said Shapiro's argument was dismissed as outside the scope of the rent control law.

Several of the tenants in the building, located just off Broadway, have already found new houses, or have been relocated by the Harvard housing office, and others are likely to follow, John C. MacLean, who lives in the apartment, said. "We're all adults here; everyone will make their decision to stay or leave based on how much aggravation they can take," MacLean said.

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