Smith Board Commits To Affordable Housing
-- 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
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
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174
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