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Harvard Should Sell Responsibly



I am an undergraduate in this College and I am very concerned about Harvard's plan for the conversion of its formerly rent-controlled buildings into student and affiliate housing.

I wonder if Harvard's financial advisors realize what damage their plan will cause to the individuals, neighborhoods, communities and city surrounding us. The city government and the numerous tenants' associations and independent housing advocate groups are facing this sudden loss of affordable hoursing stock as a true crisis. These groups are hard-pressed for resources and solutions to provide replacement living space for hundreds of Cambridge residents. Individuals will be displaced from their homes and from their communities. Poorer folks will be pushed out of formerly healthily integrated communities.

Speaking as someone who grew up in a wealthy suburb of New York City, I have had the experience of living in a homogeneous and sheltered community. It has been truly vital for me to have taken residence in Cambridge and to be surrounded by communities which are rich and diverse and in which people of different incomes and classes interact, communicate and associate as neighbors. I would hate to see class barriers become strengthened around me; it would be an even more tragic loss to our local communities and to their residents. It would be a great misfortune to the city and to Harvard students like me who are so inspired by Cambridge's mixed-income neighborhoods as models of successfully integrated communities.

The city and its citizens depend on the continued affordability and availability of Harvard-owned, formerly rent-controlled housing units. The organizations representing their interests cannot replace this space.

I understand Harvard is not a social service agency, nor is it bound to observe municipal interests before its own. Harvard has every right to end its relationsip with its lower-income tenants. However, I think Harvard should seriously work on solving its own financial and housing needs by alternative strategies. Harvard should consider that the City of Cambridge and its lower-income citizens have no further resources for their incredibly pressing needs.

Harvard has the opportunity to sell these buildings according to the value they bore when they were purchased and maintained as rent-controlled buildings. The sale of these buildings to competent landlords committed to the continuing availability of affordable housing in Cambridge would be no loss to Harvard and would be an immeasurable gain to the city and its inhabitants, on campus and off. Cambridge is incredibly fortunate to have pople who are willing to maintain tenants at below-market rates, people who are so enthusiastically committed to the needs of Cambridge's citizens and of its communities. Harvard is in the incredibly fortunate position of being able to help everyone out. Alternatively, capitalizing on this sudden social and economic crisis is shortsighted and unconscionable.

The city needs its current levels of available low- and moderate-income housing preserved. Harvard students need to be surrounded by communities where not only diversity, but also cooperation, social integration and communication across class barriers is a reality. Where social conditions are concerned, Harvard's students will benefit from Cambridge's strengths. I believe that it is the University's responsibility to refrain from unnecessarily destructive decisions. --Jennifer A. Fraulo '96

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