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In a City Council chamber where politicians have frequently taken a confrontational approach towards Harvard, the councillors thanked the city’s three universities yesterday for their efforts to house more students on campus and alleviate the persistent housing crunch in Cambridge.
City Manager Robert W. Healy issued a report documenting a 7 percent increase in on-campus dorm rooms at Harvard, MIT and Lesley University between 1997 and 2003.
Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio, who co-chairs the council’s University Relations Committee, said yesterday he appreciated the universities’ efforts to keep students from flooding the crowded Cambridge housing market.
But he added that if the universities were to increase their enrollments, the current number of student dormitories would be inadequate.
“At some point, the demands of the students and the demands of the City Council coincided when the housing market became unaffordable,” Gallucio said after the council’s weekly meeting.
“[But] it’s tough to claim victory when the increases in housing are met with the increases in enrollment,” he added.
The statistics reported yesterday were culled from the Town-Gown reports the three universities have submitted to the city Planning Board each year since 1997.
According to the report, Harvard added 124 beds during the six-year period, giving the University the capacity to house 8,075 undergraduate and graduate students. MIT provided 676 new beds for a total of 5,372, and Lesley added 120 beds for a total of 450.
The Cambridge universities report the number of students housed on-campus each year, but have not officially told the city about plans for future student body growth.
“It’s been an area where universities have been reluctant to discuss parameters with city officials,” Galluccio said.
Although skyrocketing housing prices are a perennial worry in Cambridge, Harvard has frequently run into local opposition when trying to build more student residences.
In the Riverside neighborhood, where residents still bear resentment for the construction of Mather Tower and Peabody Terrace, University officials and community leaders battled for years over Harvard’s proposed development of its property along Memorial Drive.
Almost a year ago, the council unanimously approved a compromise agreement with Harvard that will allow the University to build 330 new graduate student and faculty apartments.
But after viewing Harvard’s proposed designs last month, neighborhood leaders raised concerns with the plans, signaling that a smooth expansion into Riverside is far from certain.
At last night’s meeting, the council also discussed two shootings that took place near Harvard on Sept. 18. One of the shootings occurred on Athens Street next to Leverett Towers, and the suspect is still at large in that case.
Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves ’72 asked Cambridge Police Department (CPD) Commissioner Ronnie Watson to provide more information about the incidents.
“You should have a reasonable right to live in a city where people aren’t just shooting,” Reeves told the council.
The CPD has said the two shootings were not related, but Reeves said he is nevertheless concerned that there has been too much gunfire in the city recently.
“It’s fascinating given the small size of the city and the large size of the police force that the certainty about what is occurring is not great,” Reeves said after the meeting.
“It just sort of amazes me that [Watson] didn’t have a better idea of what’s going on in our midst,” he added.
—Staff writer Joshua D. Gottlieb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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