To the Honorable, the City Council:
In response to Awaiting Report Item Number 10-57, regarding a report on Harvard University's acquisition of three properties formerly owned by the Society of Jesus of New England/Weston School of Theology and affordable housing in Cambridge, Thomas Lucey, Director of Community Relations for Harvard University reports the following:
The Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) purchased the properties because they are adjacent to its campus and offer a unique opportunity to support its academic program, thus continuing the properties' longstanding institutional use. The GSD had not expanded its footprint since 1979 and has no plans to purchase further properties in this neighborhood.
Harvard and Cambridge City Government have a long and successful record of working together to create affordable housing in the city. Examples include Harvard's 20/20/2000 program which is $20 million, 20-year, affordable housing low-interest loan fund through which the University provides assistance to help create and preserve affordable housing for low and middle-income residents. Started in 2000 and developed in consultation with local leaders, to date 20/20/2000 funds have been used to help build or renovate 465 units in Cambridge on 31 different development projects and to provide $17.3 million in financing; that accounts for approximately 25% of all affordable units built or renovated in the City during this period. It also provided local agencies with $1 million in direct grants to explore innovative approaches to affordable housing development.
In addition, Harvard worked closely with City leaders and neighbors to develop graduate student housing in Riverside that created 33 affordable home ownership units and 6 affordable rental units that were opened in 2007/2008. By developing housing for its graduate students, the University was able to address a goal of the City Council to house more students and relieve pressure on the local rental housing market. The Riverside project also included the creation of new publicly accessible open space on the Charles River which was recently opened by the City. Another highlight of the collaboration in this effort is Harvard's sale of 100 housing units for one-third of market rate to the City to be used as affordable housing units. Taken in conjunction, these combined efforts have created or preserved over 600 units of affordable housing in recent history.
We are proud of the many ways that Harvard has been an effective partner with Cambridge addressing affordable housing and other important issues in Cambridge.