Off-campus tenants have housing rights, too

We were glad to hear that Yale College officials and University Properties managers joined forces to solve the imminent — and until they solved it, undeclared — undergraduate housing crisis last week. We just wish they had mentioned it before they evicted tenants with few places to go.

Don’t get us wrong: The living space at Harrison Court, where all 40 apartment units have now been reserved for undergraduate annex housing in the coming year, is reasonably nice and extremely convenient to campus. On Park Street, Harrison Court sits across from Pierson and the Cabaret, barely a block from our own Briton Hadden Memorial Building. Indeed, off-campus housing as nice and as close to Yale as 210 Park is tough to come by. So we were stunned to learn that this rental deal was inked without consulting the complex’s existing renters.

We certainly understand that, for the Yale College Dean’s Office, housing issues do not center around a small group of off-campus students or other lessees. The College’s primary housing concern will always be simply to fulfill the guarantee of undergraduate housing for all four years to students who want it. But when officials at University Properties talk about furthering Yale’s mission, we find it difficult to understand how acting in bad faith as a landlord can accomplish that goal.

There is no surplus of viable off-campus housing choices in close proximity to Yale, and few can afford students both a high degree of safety and a reasonably low cost. By telling students who expected a simple lease renewal that they have to start packing for next year — when anyone reasonably expecting housing somewhere akin to Harrison Court would have had to begin a search by November at the latest — University Properties has left its tenants in an untenable position.

Of course, University Properties is not throwing Harrison Court’s current residents out onto the street with no alternatives; officials have announced plans to try to accommodate tenants among the roughly 500 properties owned by Yale’s real estate conglomerate. But this is still hardly ideal for displaced tenants, Yale students or not: Yalies are unlikely to find a space even remotely as safely convenient to campus, and other residents may find themselves in an entirely different neighborhood, even a different ward.

The case of Peter Harcourt, who has spent the last 40 years at 210 Park, is remarkable for the duration of his stay, but his reason seems typical of the residents who will soon be displaced. For Harcourt, there are few alternatives to Harrison Court that he can afford that do not have substantially higher area crime rates attached. More frustratingly, an annual re-lease policy means a housing search can always be just a year away.

We consider this uncertainty a serious problem in University Properties’ treatment of its tenants. Although roughly 12 percent of Yale undergraduates live in housing that is not guarded by a residential college gate, the Yale name is still attached to most of those off-campus lease agreements. And while we are glad that Yale College is serious about making good on its promises, that commitment and transparency should extend to all University housing deals.

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