Celebrating the acquisition of a stately 1920’s-era apartment building using funds from Harvard’s 20/20/2000 initiative, Cambridge City officials hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday at the site of its latest affordable housing development.
The handsome 65-unit four-story brick building, featuring mostly studio and one-bedroom apartments, is located in the prestigious Avon Hill neighborhood near Porter Square. It was purchased by the Lancaster Street Limited Liability Company, which was created by the Cambridge Affordable Housing Corporation, for $11.4 million to provide below market-rate housing opportunities for Cambridge residents.
“I don’t think we ever envisioned a time when we could be celebrating a victory like we are today,” said Cambridge Mayor Anthony Galluccio. “If you tried to convey to the City Council a few years ago that we might have been able to obtain an apartment building on Lancaster Street in West Cambridge you would have been laughed out of a roundtable session…and today we have proved the naysayers wrong.”
Galluccio cited Harvard’s $1.5 million contribution as the impetus for allowing greater flexibility in the project guidelines. Thirty percent of the units will be rented to middle-income residents who are having a difficult time securing housing in Cambridge but who also earn too much to qualify for conventional subsidy programs. The remainder of the units will be rented to low-income residents.
“This does demonstrate what can happen if you have the right people in the right place with their eye on the ball, and enough capital…that can be used flexibly at the right time in order to bring something about,” said Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine. “That is no small achievement.”
Rudenstine also noted Harvard’s desire to contribute to the affordable housing stock in the city in which many of its students, faculty, and staff live. “To the extent to which the city of Cambridge has a problem, we’re inevitably involved in it, and I think we ought to be trying to help them solve it.”
Harvard’s 20/20/2000 initiative, launched last year, makes available $20 million in low interest loans to help community organizations secure and renovate new affordable housing units in Boston and Cambridge. Cambridge Affordable Trust received $6 million of the funds. The Lancaster Street project represents the first development in Cambridge to utilize the monies.
Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy made special mention of Harvard’s 20/20/2000 initiative, calling it an “incredible commitment on the part of the University.” He also thanked Rudenstine for his “cooperative collaboration” with the City of Cambridge during his tenure as president.
Other funding for the Lancaster Street project comes from several sources, including the City of Cambridge, East Cambridge Savings Bank, and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Daniel Wuenschel, director of the Cambridge Housing Authority, says the Lancaster Street building will be renovated in sections over the next five years as residents move out. Kitchens, bathrooms, and electrical wiring will be updated. None of the current residents will be displaced. New tenants will be selected from current waiting lists.