Harvard University is re-upping a program that helps to finance affordable housing in the region.
The school will put another $20 million toward a low-interest loan program that helps to fund apartment and condominium buildings for lower- and middle-income residents, mainly in Boston and Cambridge. It is partnering with three nonprofit housing lenders on the program, which lends money to developers at early stages of a project, often to buy sites or do costly predevelopment work — financing that can be hard to come by through other sources.
“Harvard is pleased to renew the Harvard Local Housing Collaborative,” said university president Larry Bacow, in a statement. “We are proud to be part of a community where partners from across Greater Boston come together to strengthen the region.”
Harvard launched the program in 2000, and its funding has turned over twice as loans have been repaid, meaning it has doled out $40 million over the last two decades. Along with other private and public funding, it has contributed to about $1.3 billion worth of affordable housing development — more than 7,000 units in 180 projects in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Watertown.
One of those developments officially opened last week. Nuestra Comunidad Development Corp. celebrated a 76-unit mixed-income development at Bartlett Station in Roxbury that received more than $600,000 in funding from Harvard.
The new money comes as Cambridge’s City Council considers new rules that would permit affordable-housing developments to be taller and denser than existing zoning allows, as a way to spur more construction of low-cost units. Proponents have said additional funding would help more of those projects get built.
Meanwhile, in Boston, Mayor Martin J. Walsh has pushed for construction of more housing at all price points, to blunt rising rents. Walsh recently announced plans to award $30 million in affordable housing funds this year, nearly twice what it doled out in 2018. Harvard’s contributions, too, help fill an important gap in the market, said Sheila Dillon, Walsh’s chief of housing.
“Harvard’s continued partnership and investment in affordable housing in Boston has not only been innovative but is also a wonderful example of how a private organization can have a meaningful impact on the lives of thousands of Bostonians,” Dillon said in a statement.
Like several other schools, Harvard has long faced criticism for underpaying the amount the City of Boston asks for, in lieu of property taxes, to fund municipal services. Last year, Harvard fell $2.7 million short of the $12.5 million Boston sought, according to city data.
The university paid $4.1 million under a long-term agreement with Cambridge. Harvard, which also pays property taxes on its nonacademic real estate, has said the university tries to balance so-called PILOT payments with other funding to help the neighborhoods where the university operates.
Harvard, too, is wading deeper into housing development itself.
The university recently announced a partnership with real estate firm Berkeley Investments to build on a 5-acre site of a long-unused warehouse on Lincoln Street in Brighton. Plans are still being formulated, but are expected to include a sizable amount of housing.
It also is weighing potential developers for 14 acres along Western Avenue in Allston — the start of Harvard’s long-planned Enterprise Research Campus — which is permitted to include some 250,000 square feet of apartments in its first phase.