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University Housing Rent to Rise in 2020-2021 Year

Holden Green is a University-leased housing complex on the border of Cambridge and Somerville. Residents of other Harvard University Housing properties will face higher rent over the coming year.
Holden Green is a University-leased housing complex on the border of Cambridge and Somerville. Residents of other Harvard University Housing properties will face higher rent over the coming year. By Jonathan G. Yuan
By Callia A. Chuang, Crimson Staff Writer

Rent for University-owned apartments will increase by an average of one percent — with increases ranging from zero to two percent on a unit-by-unit basis — for the 2020-2021 academic year, Harvard University Housing announced Friday.

To determine revised “market rents,” HUH hired a private consultant to analyze three years of data for more than 13,500 apartments — both Harvard-leased and private properties — in Cambridge, Boston, and Somerville. HUH evaluates rent for its each of its 3,000 units individually, and tenants will be notified of updated rates in March.

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in an email that HUH can provide housing for up to 50 percent of Harvard graduate students, and the portfolio often reaches “very near full occupancy.”

“Harvard engages in efforts to provide students with access to diverse and well managed properties in convenient locations, as well as programming designed to foster community and strengthen the bonds with University colleagues,” Newton wrote.

Many graduate students still find Harvard housing unaffordable. Shannon G. Bryant, a Ph.D. candidate in Linguistics, wrote in an email that she and her partner decided against renting a University-owned apartment because of the prohibitive cost.

“We simply could not justify the price tag of a Harvard-owned property,” Bryant wrote. “It seems that it is not in the University’s interest to provide its graduate students with affordable housing options, nor to adjust our stipends and wages in order to render their housing affordable.”

Ian L. Kirby, a Ph.D. candidate in Linguistics, wrote in an email that he believes the University’s pricing scheme does not properly consider graduate students’ financial situation.

“It's kind of unfortunate that HUH tries to keep their rent prices in line with market prices, because it's not really competing for the same pool of tenants,” Kirby wrote.

In 1983, a faculty committee determined that market rate pricing — the current price-setting policy — was the most equitable method of allocating Harvard-owned rental units, according to Newton.

Georgia Soares, a Ph.D. candidate in Literature and Comparative Literature, said she spends more than half of her graduate stipend on rent.

“If you increase the stipend by a little bit but then increase housing costs by even more, it doesn't help us,” Soares said. “I think that a wiser solution would be to provide affordable housing to students.”

Newton wrote that the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has increased the standard Ph.D. stipend by at least three percent in nine of the past ten years.

—Staff writer Callia A. Chuang can be reached at callia.chuang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @calliaachuang.

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