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University, Cambridge Agree on Housing Plan

By R. ALAN Leo

The Cambridge City Council agreed last night to support Harvard's plan to sell about a quarter of its formerly rent-controlled property to the city and convert much of the remainder to affiliate housing.

The agreement ended a nine-month impasse between the city and the University over what to do with the units.

Last month, after refusing for months to budge from its original proposal, Harvard Planning and Real Estate (HPRE) offered to sell 100 units--26 percent of its formerly rent-controlled property--to the city at below market price.

The University stipulated that the sale would be made on the condition that Cambridge support the decision to either convert remaining units to affiliate housing or sell them at market value.

The city now has the option to buy 100 of Harvard's formerly rent-controlled apartments of various size and location for $3,155,200, or less than $32,000 per unit--a significant discount from market value.

The University has also agreed to voluntarily keep rent at below-market rates for "protected" tenants as long as they live in Harvard property. Seventy-eight Harvard tenants currently qualify for "protected" status due to low income or disability.

The Previous Offer

Harvard unveiled its original plan for its nearly 700 rent-controlled apartment units last October.

At the time, HPRE proposed to set aside 94 units for low-income tenants through 1998, to keep 60 units affordable for 20 years and to keep 10 units permanently affordable. HPRE proposed to convert units to affiliate housing as they were vacated.

The council's Committee on Housing and Community Development, headed by City Councillor Francis H. Duehay '55, rejected this first proposal.

Committee members speculated that conversion to affiliate housing would shrink the neighborhood's housing stock and harm Cambridge's Agassiz neighborhood, where most of the apartments are located.

The committee recommended instead that Harvard and the city jointly fund a program enabling tenants to buy their formerly rent-controlled apartments at below-market rates.

HPRE stood by its offer for nine months, suggesting that no other landlord had done as much to help its formerly rent-controlled tenants as Harvard proposed to do.

But the city asked that the University do more.

Tenant Groups Claim Victory

Cambridge tenant groups saw the new deal as a major victory for them.

"Harvard's offer is far better than its laughable first offer last fall," said Nancy Hall, an organizer at the tenant's-rights group Eviction Free Zone.

Hall attributed Harvard's reversal to pressure from within and from the community at large. At last night's City Council meeting, Hall thanked the Harvard Community for Affordable Housing, a pro-tenant student group, and the Harvard-Radcliffe Alliance for Affordable Housing, a similar alumni organization.

"These students, acting selflessly, supported their neighbors against their corporate university," Hall said.

JoAnne Preston, co-chair of the Agassiz Tenants' Organization, praised the University for its efforts.

"It's not often that Harvard offers the city something for nothing. This is one of those rare occasions," she said.

Harvard has also agreed to urge other Cambridge landlords to follow its example and sell a fraction of their formerly rent-controlled properties to the city.

University officials could not be reached for comment last night

The Previous Offer

Harvard unveiled its original plan for its nearly 700 rent-controlled apartment units last October.

At the time, HPRE proposed to set aside 94 units for low-income tenants through 1998, to keep 60 units affordable for 20 years and to keep 10 units permanently affordable. HPRE proposed to convert units to affiliate housing as they were vacated.

The council's Committee on Housing and Community Development, headed by City Councillor Francis H. Duehay '55, rejected this first proposal.

Committee members speculated that conversion to affiliate housing would shrink the neighborhood's housing stock and harm Cambridge's Agassiz neighborhood, where most of the apartments are located.

The committee recommended instead that Harvard and the city jointly fund a program enabling tenants to buy their formerly rent-controlled apartments at below-market rates.

HPRE stood by its offer for nine months, suggesting that no other landlord had done as much to help its formerly rent-controlled tenants as Harvard proposed to do.

But the city asked that the University do more.

Tenant Groups Claim Victory

Cambridge tenant groups saw the new deal as a major victory for them.

"Harvard's offer is far better than its laughable first offer last fall," said Nancy Hall, an organizer at the tenant's-rights group Eviction Free Zone.

Hall attributed Harvard's reversal to pressure from within and from the community at large. At last night's City Council meeting, Hall thanked the Harvard Community for Affordable Housing, a pro-tenant student group, and the Harvard-Radcliffe Alliance for Affordable Housing, a similar alumni organization.

"These students, acting selflessly, supported their neighbors against their corporate university," Hall said.

JoAnne Preston, co-chair of the Agassiz Tenants' Organization, praised the University for its efforts.

"It's not often that Harvard offers the city something for nothing. This is one of those rare occasions," she said.

Harvard has also agreed to urge other Cambridge landlords to follow its example and sell a fraction of their formerly rent-controlled properties to the city.

University officials could not be reached for comment last night

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