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November 17, 2003

Smith Board Commits To Affordable Housing

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- At its fall meeting on Oct. 25, the trustees of Smith College voted to approve guidelines for the college's contribution to affordable housing replacement in Northampton. The college is committed to working with city officials and other interested parties to replace affordable housing that is eliminated as the result of the expansion of campus facilities into the Green Street area. That area is the site of a proposed engineering and science building and related facilities.

Smith currently owns 66 housing units in the Green Street/West Street/Belmont Avenue area. As many as 36 housing units may be displaced by construction of a new building for the engineering program and the departments of computer science and chemistry.

"Smith College is concerned with relocating tenants displaced by construction and with not depleting the city's stock of affordable housing," stated President Carol T. Christ.

The structure of Smith's plan to replace affordable housing is based on the recommendations of the Smith-Northampton Affordability Partnership or SNAP, an ad hoc committee of Smith College officials, city government and affordable housing advocates and agencies formed in 2001. The plan involves establishment of a small committee, jointly appointed by the president of the college and the mayor of Northampton, which will review applications from developers, both non-profit and for-profit, for subsidies to develop affordable housing. Priority will be given to projects that, for example, accommodate displaced tenants, maintain affordability, provide a range of housing sizes and rents, and leverage college funds to obtain maximal state, federal or private funds.

The trustees did not authorize a specific sum for the fund; rather, the college's contributions to the fund will recognize the number of affordable housing units of various sizes that are displaced in the Green/Arnold/Belmont area. Contribution values will be determined at the time of displacement by considering a number of cost factors, including standards set by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development for unit costs for affordable housing, the market cost of developing new affordable rental housing in Northampton, and the amount of debt the replacement project can reasonably bear while maintaining rents in an affordable range.

The college has hired the Boston architectural firm of Bohlin, Cywinski, and Jackson to proceed with detailed planning for the engineering/ science building.

More than a quarter of Smith's students major in the sciences, a figure that has been increasing in recent years. Expansion of the campus is necessitated by a number of factors, including the need for classroom, laboratory and office space for the college's new engineering program, the first such program at a women's college. In addition, science facilities built more than 30 years ago are no longer effective for the increasingly interdisciplinary, collaborative and research-based ways in which science is now taught. In 2002, following extensive consultation with science faculty and college administration, architectural planners recommended the Green Street site as optimal for a cluster of three buildings, to be built in long-term phases, as funding becomes available.

Establishment of the affordable housing replacement fund is not the college's first commitment to housing access. The college is negotiating to purchase property at 66 Green Street from HER, Inc., a local housing agency. To replace affordable housing units in that building, the college would build 16 units of enhanced affordable housing at 180-182 Earle Street for HER, Inc. The Earle Street development would provide substantial improvements over the Green Street apartments, offering individual kitchens and baths, accessible common space and improved site conditions. Construction could begin in the summer of 2004, with occupancy possible in early 2005.

Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state and 60 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's college in the country.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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