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Harvard Reaches Agreement on First Stage of Allston Development, Clearing Path for Approval

Harvard's proposed Enterprise Research Campus would be located across the Charles River in Allston.
Harvard's proposed Enterprise Research Campus would be located across the Charles River in Allston. By Zing Gee
By Brandon L. Kingdollar, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard University has agreed to increase its commitment to affordable housing construction in the first phase of its proposed campus expansion in Allston, earning the support of key Boston officials and clearing the way for the city to approve the opening stage of the school’s vast expansion plans in the neighborhood.

The University has committed to 25 percent affordability in Phase A of the proposed Enterprise Research Campus development, for a total of 86 affordable housing units, and will pay $25 million to establish a new affordable housing fund dedicated to Allston and Brighton.

The agreement was announced Tuesday in a press release from the city that included statements hailing the new plan from an array of key elected officials who have long been skeptical of the school’s proposed development. The new agreement is backed by the Harvard-Allston Task Force, according to the group's chair, Cindy Marchando.

The BPDA will vote on the new proposal on Thursday.

Harvard’s pledge to fund affordable housing marks a $5 million increase from commitments unveiled in a June 30 meeting with residents, where it pledged $20 million over 10 years. The additional $5 million will be paid from 2033 to 2035. The University’s 25 percent affordability commitment remains unchanged from the previous meeting, and in future stages of the ERC development, Harvard has only committed to 20 percent affordability.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07 said in a press release that the agreement marks a “remarkable step forward” for affordable housing and is aligned with Allston’s needs.

“The development of Harvard’s land in Allston is of such scale and scope that the impact will shape generations to come—we must get this right for our communities,” Wu wrote. “I’m grateful to the many community leaders and activists who have shaped this agreement and who will continue to steer our focus for sustainable, equitable development.”

The 25 percent affordability commitment represents the largest percentage pledged by a private developer in the city’s history, according to the press release. The city’s Inclusionary Development Policy mandates that 13 percent of most new housing developments consist of income-restricted units, though the city has explored increasing this requirement to 20 percent.

The agreement also includes the donation of .9 acres of land at 65 Seattle Street to an affordable housing developer — another pledge intended to address Allston’s growing affordability crisis, which has seen median rent surge by 36 percent between 2011 and 2019 and the price of the average home rise from $350,000 to $500,000.

Kevin M. Carragee, co-president of Brighton’s Hobart Park Neighborhood Association, said in an interview that the University’s new pledges came only after “great pressure” from local organizers, and credited councilors and state representatives who advocated for residents of Allston and Brighton.

“Is this agreement in some ways better than where we were on the 30th of June? The answer is yes,” Carragee said. “The credit doesn’t go to Harvard University.”

University spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke wrote in a statement that the Wu administration, elected officials, and Allston-Brighton community leaders have all helped the project move forward.

“We appreciate all of the work that has gone into advancing this extraordinary project,” O’Rourke wrote. “We’re pleased to be on the BPDA Board agenda and look forward to the public hearing on Thursday.”

Clarification: July 14, 2022:

This article has been updated to clarify that the 20 percent affordable housing Harvard has committed to in future stages of its Allston campus expansion is not solidified as part of the current agreement it struck with city officials and residents.

—Crimson staff writer Brandon L. Kingdollar can be reached at brandon.kingdollar@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @newskingdollar.

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