Study Seeking Fairer Housing Concludes

A committee has finished its year-long evaluation of the available space in the residential Houses and how it is allocated, advancing a long-term effort to make the distribution of space to undergraduates more equitable.

By looking at existing spaces, the Undergraduate Residential Space Assessment Committee ultimately aimed to determine how to make the distribution of students over the 12 upperclassmen Houses more fair and to explore ways to address the housing needs of the College’s students more generally.

“Recognizing that the residential House system is a cornerstone of the undergraduate experience at Harvard and that 97 percent of our students live in residence, our goal is to house our students as comfortably as possible,” former Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71, who resigned in June, said in a statement released Friday.

Gross, along with Cabot House Master Jay M. Harris, led the committee, which included four House masters and representatives from FAS Physical Resources.

With the help of computer-aided drawings that had been updated to reflect accurate space use in the Houses, the committee members worked to obtain a full understanding of the number of residents each House should be realistically expected to accommodate. Their work will result in a long-term shift in how many people live in each House, even as the total number of students living in the College’s residential system for sophomores, juniors, and seniors will not change.

“Our goal is to offer our students the most comfortable housing assignment, given the current real estate,” Associate Dean for Residential Life Suzy M Nelson wrote in an e-mail. “The next step is to meet with each House and discuss the recommendations and develop a strategy for implementing them.”

The work of the Undergraduate Residential Space Assessment Committee will also be integral to the College’s imminent decision on the extent of the renovations it will undertake for the Houses.

The College is currently choosing among three different possible renovation options, which constitute 10-, 30-, and 50-year schemes. The plan will be released in November following completion of the House Capital Renewal Study, which is examining the physical condition of the Houses.

—Staff writer Victoria B. Kabak can be reached at