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Allston, Brighton Residents Form Housing Coalition

Allston
Some of Harvard's land holdings in Allston.
More than 100 Allston and Brighton homeowners and renters joined a grassroots coalition over the past week to encourage Harvard and other local institutions to increase their commitment to affordable housing, green spaces, and public transportation in the area.

Allstonian Kevin M. Carragee, one of the 11 founding members, sent an email two weeks ago announcing the formation of the Brighton Allston Community Coalition to an online Allston-Brighton forum last week. In the email, Carragee urged residents interested in joining to contact the group.

The creation of BACC comes amid recent tensions in the Allston and Brighton area over the housing market, green space, and public transit. In past months, Allston and Brighton residents protested anticipated traffic congestion issues due to construction delays on West Station. Local businesses and residents have also filed public comment letters in response to Harvard’s plans for Allston, commenting on the lack of designated green space and asking for a new housing plan that ensures “economic, racial, and family structure diversity.”

In a March letter responding to these concerns, University officials wrote that current plans for residential spaces will evolve as Harvard works with future development partners.

Part of BACC’s mission statement, according to Carragee’s email, is to ask Harvard and other local universities like Boston University and Boston College to make a “binding” commitment to housing its students on campus.

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University spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke wrote in an emailed statement Sunday that Harvard houses nearly all undergraduates on its campus—and that Harvard has the capacity to house nearly half of its graduate students.

“The University also supports a wide range of programs and initiatives actively working to increase and create more diverse and affordable housing options across both Boston and Cambridge,” O’Rourke wrote.

In an interview, Carragee said he gives credit to Harvard for housing its undergraduates on campus. Roughly 97 percent of undergraduates choose to live in the College’s on-campus housing. Carragee noted, however, that Harvard does not have similar policies for its graduate students, some of which live in Allston-Brighton.

“Harvard could make a contribution, an important contribution, by housing some of their graduate students,” Carragee said. “Universities can help remedy the housing crisis—they can’t solve it on their own, I recognize that—but they can relieve the housing crisis.”

Carragee compared Harvard with other local universities that do not house all of their undergraduates on campus. He said undergraduates from those universities live in “a sizeable number” of residential housing units.

“That is an ill use of residential housing stock, driving up rent and driving up home prices,” Carragee said. “Landlords can charge four undergraduates very high rents and rents that are far higher than a family can afford.”

Local residents, like Eva Webster, wrote in email responses to the announcement that they were “in a celebratory mood.”

“I believe that in view of what is happening on the development front, and our elected officials’ apparent inability to slow things down or reduce the excessive scale of certain projects, Allston-Brighton needs as much strong civic engagement as we can possibly muster,” Webster wrote.

Brighton resident Margarita Montero also praised the formation of the coalition, writing that locals “have more political power if we worked together.”

Carragee said the group also aims to “bridge differences” between older residents and younger residents, as well as residents of different racial and ethnic communities.

“We aim to build a coalition—we intentionally use that word in our name,” Carragee said. “The Allston-Brighton community is diverse, and the coalition should reflect that diversity.”

Harvard a few years ago designated $3 million of its community benefits package to support the All Bright Homeownership Program an initiative to buy up homes in the area and resell them to homeowners with an owner-occupancy deed restriction, which stipulates the buyer must live on the property.

—Staff writer Truelian Lee can be reached at truelian.lee@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @truelian_lee.

—Staff writer Jacqueline P. Patel can be reached at jacqueline.patel@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @jppatel99.

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