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Construction has begun on 303 Third Street near Kendall Square, the site that will house MIT's University Residential Community, the result of over four years of planning by various members of the MIT community to provide affordable housing to those with institutional affiliations close to campus.

Sales began in June, according to President Emeritus Paul E. Gray '54, who leads the URC initiative. Occupancy will begin as early as fall 2008, Gray said.

In an MIT Faculty Newsletter article, Gray and Director of Planning Emeritus O. Robert Simha MCP '57, another URC initiative leader, said that the URC will be owned in the form of a co-operative. Only those with institutional ties to MIT, Harvard, or Massachusetts General Hospital may be eligible for membership in the URC, which will consist of 168 apartment style units.

According to a recent document from Gray, prices for housing units range from $478,000 for a one bedroom apartment to $1.5 million for a three bedroom apartment. Such prices are comparable to other cooperative and condominium sales in the surrounding area, the URC's Web site states.

Each resident receives a share of the corporation's stock that is proportional to his or her housing unit purchase price under the co-operative form of ownership, according to the document from Gray. After more than 50 percent of the units have been sold, the residents will officially form the co-op ownership structure and elect a board of directors.

Transfer of housing units can only be made from an owner to what the board determines to be an "eligible person," that is, someone who has institutional ties to MIT, Harvard, or MGH.

Gray said that the URC's developer has been somewhat skeptical of its ability to solicit many buyers because MIT does not financially compensate the URC. Its agreement with the URC calls for the reversion of the co-operative form, making the housing available to the public at large, if less than half of the housing units (74 units) are sold within the first 14 months. Gray said that the chance of this is unlikely and that the demand will be met.

"In two weeks, $30 million dollars of real-estate has been committed" by buyers, said Simha. As an executive officer of the URC, Simha said that this precaution of steering away from co-operative ownership is merely a "safety device for the developer."

The housing units have been substantially modified "to fit the specific needs of URC," Gray said. Although the residence is intended to be multi-generational, it does have facilities to accommodate older people, including wider doors, walk-in showers, and elevator access in duplex homes, according to Gray.

University Residential Communities, LLC is the brain-child of nine MIT and Harvard faculty and alumni who wanted to set aside housing for those at both institutes near a campus. Of the original nine professionals, three have signed up to live in the URC, Simha said.

Gray said that although the residence was conceived for people 55 or older, and therefore dubbed "Aging in Place," early meetings consisting of potential owners showed that they would prefer the URC be multi-generational.

Many potential sites within walking distance of MIT were identified over the years, but fell through due to disagreements over cost, Simha said. The URC's final Third Street site was selected about a year ago as the latest potential site although negotiations over pricing took a year. Two apartment buildings are being built; the one located in the south is affiliated with the URC.

Both Gray and Simha said that they believe not many people within the MIT community are aware of the URC initiative. The URC would be much more popular if awareness increased, they said.

More information can be found on the URC's Web site at http://web.mit.edu/ir/urc/index.html.