Harvard University Housing announced last week that it will hold rents for the 2021-22 academic year flat in comparison to the cost of rent this academic year across all of HUH’s properties.
In addition to holding rents flat, HUH announced on Jan. 22 that it will continue pandemic relief policies established during the early months of the crisis. These policies include offering more latitude in subletting, flexibility in lease dates, and individual roommate rent charges. Across all units, HUH will extend a pandemic relief adjustment of $150 per month from March 1 through June 30, 2022 across all units.
Harvard spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke wrote in an emailed statement that HUH has attempted to address pandemic-related economic hardships through several policies.
“The temporary pandemic relief adjustment is just one way in which Harvard University Housing (HUH) is helping to mitigate the difficulties and challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic,” she wrote. “From penalty-free early lease terminations, to sublet rent relief, no-fee transfers, and greater flexibility in the choice of lease start dates, HUH is proud of the ways in which it has tried to help ease the difficulties some residents may be facing.”
Cynthia E. Ahmed, a Harvard Law student who will reside in University housing with roommates during the spring semester, said she was impressed by the flexibility in lease dates offered by HUH.
“Basically, you can start a lease any time from January until the end of February, with totally flexible dates — and you can reserve it but not have to pay for it until you move in,” she said. “And then you can move out or terminate your lease at any point, and not have to pay penalty or be responsible for the rest of the lease.”
Other tenants, however, said they wished HUH was more proactive about supporting residents during the earlier months of the Covid-19 pandemic. Felipe Estrada-Prada, a senior learning technologist at Graduate School of Education’s Teaching and Learning Lab, said rigid rates motivated many residents to move out during the pandemic.
“They were very unflexible at the beginning. And to be honest, I don’t really see right now much more flexibility,” he said. “I think they could have done so much more. I mean, they have empty units, and people were really leaving because they couldn’t pay.”
Juan Pablo Ugarte, a Graduate School of Design student who lives in HUH with his wife and daughters, said HUH’s sublet rent relief option is “extremely useful” — especially for international families that frequently travel like his own. Ugarte and his family returned to Chile during winter break through use of HUH’s sublet option and were able to avoid paying rent during the month they were gone.
“For the winter break, it made sense for us, because, essentially, we were thinking that with Covid cases going up, they were going to close the daycare again,” he said. “It didn’t seem like such a good time to be locked in the house. It was a little depressing, I guess. So we took that option, which is essentially a month without rent.”
Lucero R. Varela, a research assistant at the Ed School’s EASEL Lab, said the relationships she built with fellow HUH residents, particularly through HUH’s Graduate Commons Program, have helped her connect with fellow peers during a time characterized by isolation.
“During the pandemic, I was feeling alone because I have been living alone in my apartment for, like, 10 months,” she said. “This was my first experience living alone. So it was great to have them and to be able to connect with them a few times a week.”
—Staff writer Isabella B. Cho can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.