ABC February Newsletter: New Proposals for Central Square and More Proof That Building Means More Affordability

Spring is in sight and ABC has been planning new work for 2016. We are considering initiatives and programs that will continue to inform citizens of the important challenges we face. In addition, with the master planning process now underway, watch this space for updates including ways you can get involved in the coming months. Stay tuned for more to come.


Cambridge resident Patrick Barrett announced plans to renovate and convert 907 Main Street into a boutique hotel. Barrett expressed a desire to incorporate a residential component into the renovation, but ultimately zoning made it too difficult.

This is a real world example of how outdated and restrictive zoning has lead to the housing crisis we face today. Regarding the current zoning, Barrett said, “There are sections of the ordinance that make residential builds infinitely more difficult than hotel or commercial in business districts. I could go for a variance for relief, but some of the neighborhood groups are ruthless and would ultimately land me in Superior Court. I cannot afford to spend two years fighting a case I'd likely lose,” Barrett said. – Cambridge Chronicle

Cambridge released an online brochure on affordable housing programs and services available in the city.
A Long Standing Commitment to Affordable Housing

The city has made its Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report available online. The report contains budgetary information and updates on city initiatives.
City of Cambridge


The Massachusetts presidential primary election is Tuesday, March 1st.



According to the CDD the 2014 median market rate sales price of a single family home in Cambridge was $1,200,000, for a two family $937,000, and for a condominium $575,000.

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ABC January Newsletter: New Housing for Kendall Square and Master Plan Opportunities

The Cambridge City Council has kicked off its new term. With big initiatives such as the master plan and the Volpe Center the next two years will be an exciting time for the city.  


CDD is seeking volunteers to serve on three working groups for the master plan titled Envision Cambridge. Applications are due January 22nd.
Cambridge Chronicle

The City Council approved the MXD Zoning Petition which will add one million square feet of development in Kendall Square. This will include approximately 560 residential units of which 140 will be below-market rent.
Cambridge Chronicle
Boston Globe

The City Council approved a zoning petition initiated by Patrick Barrett that will make it easier for homeowners to create basement and accessory dwelling units.
Cambridge Chronicle

New data from Reis, Inc. reports that rents in Greater Boston rose 5.7% in 2015. The average rent for an apartment is now $2,009.
Boston Globe



The MBTA will be holding a public meeting regarding late-night service changes on Wednesday, January 20th at 6 pm at City Hall.
City of Cambridge



As reported by the 2010 Census, 65.4% of housing units in Cambridge are rented while 34.6% are owner occupied (including owner occupied condominiums). Approximately 14% of the entire housing stock is subsidized in some form.

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ABC December Newsletter: Participatory Budgeting and Green Line Troubles

As the year ends Cambridge announces the results of the most recent round of participatory budgeting while the state takes a hard look at the Green Line extension.


The city announced the results on how to spend $600,000 as voted on by residents. Bike infrastructure and transit signal prioritization for the No. 1 bus were the main recipients of the funds.

The state has begun the process of reevaluating the Green Line extension including cancelling current contracts. It is likely that the project will be scaled down significantly or possibly even cancelled due to cost concerns.
Commonwealth Magazine
Boston Globe

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies issued its annual report on the rental market. The report outlines the significant challenge in the rental market including lack of supply and increasing costs.
Boston Globe

Boston announced plans to double the affordable housing payments for developers in some neighborhoods.
Boston Globe


The Cambridge Winter Farmers Market opens on Saturday, January 9th at the Cambridge Community Center.
Cambridge Winter Farmers Market

The Cambridge MLK Day of Service will take place on Monday, January 18th from 2-5 pm in Central Square.
Many Helping Hands



Western Avenue was named as America’s best new bike lane for 2015 by the group People for Bikes.

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ABC November Newsletter: An Important Housing Report and Election Results

The election is over and the holidays are approaching. ABC wishes you a happy Thanksgiving.


Eight of the nine city councilors were reelected. Jan Devereux will replace Dennis Benzan in the next term. Full election results are available on Cambridge Civic Journal.
Cambridge Civic Journal

You can track proposed developments and provide feedback on projects using the coUrbanize website created by two MIT grads.

The Boston Foundation released its annual Greater Boston Housing Report Card. According to the report, “We have failed to meet housing production targets because there is no way to do so given the high cost of producing housing for working and middle-income households. In part, this is because of the extreme barriers to new construction, especially in the form of severely restrictive zoning at the local level across much of Massachusetts.”
Boston Globe

A survey by the Urban Land Institute of Millennials in Greater Boston found that, "80 percent of young professionals ranked access to public transit as 'very important' when choosing a place to live. More respondents said public transit was 'very important' than things such as nightlife, shopping, crime/safety and being able to walk to amenities."


The Cambridge Broadband Task Force will meet on Wednesday, November 18th from 6-8pm in the Ackerman Room at City Hall.

The Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing on a petition filed by Patrick W. Barrett that seeks to simplify zoning around accessory units on Thursday, November 19th at 2 pm in the Sullivan Chamber.
Zoning Petition

Target will present at a meeting of the Central Square Advisory Committee on Thursday, November 19th at 5:30 pm at the Central Square Library



 A recent study by and featured on which rated cities on a variety of factors including job opportunities, diversity, and commute ranked Cambridge as the best city for Millennials in the country.

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Vote Tomorrow for Cambridge's Future

Tomorrow is election day in Cambridge. Don’t forget to vote!


Like you, ABC cares about the future of our great city. We believe that policies adopted by the next City Council will determine the course of our city for years to come. Over the past few months we’ve endeavored to present information, data, and opinion consistent with our understanding of the opportunities and challenges that lie in front of us in the coming years.

As part of that effort we conducted a survey and analysis of the many candidates for City Council, which we hope you will find useful as you make final decisions about which candidates to vote for tomorrow:

Whether you agree with us or not, we encourage everyone to exercise their constitutional right to vote! Polls are open tomorrow from 7am to 8pm. If you’re not sure where your polling places is, visit to find out.

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"Making Cambridge Landlords Even Richer?" Leading Housing Expert's Election Analysis

Earlier this week I sent you an important message about ABC’s city council candidates survey and the priorities/goals that drove our analysis and candidate ratings. We hope this information will be an important guide as you make your decision about whom to vote for this coming Tuesday, November 3rd.


In addition to our candidate information, I wanted to direct you to another resource that has just been posted on the Cambridge Chronicle website. Barry Bluestone, a distinguished economist and researcher who knows more about the Greater Boston housing market than perhaps anyone in our region, has written an editorial that clearly explains why we face such a housing crunch in Cambridge and what we can do to address this reality. Dr. Bluestone's article has serious implications for Tuesday’s election.


For years, Dr. Bluestone has been a leader in helping our region understand the serious challenges we face when it comes to providing an adequate supply of housing to meet the significant demand by families of all income levels. Since 2002 he has been the primary author of the yearly “Greater Boston Housing Report Card”, published by the Boston Foundation, which last year drew attention to a serious challenge facing all residents of our region, especially those living in poverty: people are paying a greater percentage of their income on housing — “a situation which must change if we are to give everyone a chance to succeed and thrive in our community” according to the Boston Foundation.


Dr. Bluestone's letter represents his personal views, which, like ABC's candidate ratings, are provided for informational purposes. A Better Cambridge has not endorsed any candidates in this election.

Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. Need to know where your polling place is? Visit:

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Use ABC Candidate Ratings to Guide Your Vote for City Council on November 3rd


Election day is one week away. When you vote for the next city council on Tuesday, November 3rd, we hope you’ll use ABC’s candidate ratings and questionnaire as a guide.


Our city is at a critical crossroads.  Cambridge, with its many virtues, has become an increasingly attractive place to live. Coupled with our underproduction of housing for the last decade, this demand has also made Cambridge more attractive to developers seeking to maximize profit. This reality brings with it many challenges to the character of our city and to the diversity of our community.


We believe this reality also provides an opportunity that can be leveraged to preserve our diversity and build a more vibrant city for all residents.


In September, ABC hosted a public discussion with three experts in affordable housing and development to understand the challenges and opportunities facing Cambridge. The consensus was clear: Cambridge must add substantially to the current housing stock in order to meet demand and slow the precipitous increase in housing prices:


  • We must be certain that this increase in housing produces as many affordable units, including middle income and family housing, as is economically feasible.


  • With affordable units required by inclusionary zoning and subsidized by market rate rents, together with units produced by the city working with our housing nonprofits using city parking lots and increased linkage fees, we can make substantial inroads in providing affordable housing.


  • Building more housing in areas with substantial public transportation, transportation that needs to grow as our region grows, close to large areas of employment will create transit oriented communities. These communities, where people can shop, work, play and live with the least amount of car usage, are the future of a sustainable Cambridge.


Facing both a climate crisis and a housing crisis, the time for Cambridge to embrace this future is now.


These are the issues that guide the ABC city council candidate questionnaire and ratings -- A higher rating demonstrates a candidate’s alignment with the ABC goals and priorities. With these issues in mind, we hope these ratings will be an important tool in your decision about who to vote for next Tuesday.


These ratings are our best attempt at a fair assessment but there is always an element of subjectivity in ratings. Judge for yourself by reading full text of the candidates responses.

If you find these ratings useful, we urge you to share with friends, family, neighbors and colleagues.

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ABC October Newsletter: Candidate Ratings and Councilor Forum

With the election approaching ABC encourages everyone to attend our City Council Candidates Forum hosted by WBUR’s Robin Young on Thursday, October 15th at 6:30 pm. The event takes place at the Broad Institute at 415 Main Street.


A Better Cambridge released its City Council Candidate Ratings. The ratings are based on a comprehensive questionnaire distributed to all 23 candidates to measure their level of agreement with key ABC priorities and goals. Higher rated candidates demonstrate a strong understanding of the complex housing and development challenges facing Cambridge today. They are best prepared to make Cambridge a more affordable and livable city for all residents, especially low-income families. To view the ratings and the complete questionnaire click on the link below. 
ABC Candidate Ratings

ABC hosted an affordable housing forum on September 26th, bringing together three statewide housing experts to discuss solutions to the housing crisis facing the region. A recap of the forum, along with a video of the event can be found here. Jesse Kanson-Benanav wrote an op-ed in the Cambridge Chronicle summarizing the event.
Cambridge Chronicle

The City Council voted to triple the linkage fee to $12 a square foot for new commercial development with a $1 increase each year for the next three years. These fees help to preserve and create affordable housing in the city. 
Cambridge Chronicle

According to new Census Bureau figures, the Greater Boston area has the second tightest rental market in the nation, with a vacancy rate of only 2.6%.
Boston Globe


ABC is sponsoring a housing forum for the City Council candidates on Thursday, October 15th from 6:30 – 9:30 pm. The event will take place at the Broad Institute at 415 Main Street and will be moderated by Robin Young from WBUR’s Here and Now.

The City Council election is Tuesday, November 3rd. Don’t forget to Vote. The deadline for voter registration is Wednesday, October 14th. You can register to vote here.
City of Cambridge 

Don’t know where to vote? Visit to find out.

The City’s Broadband Task Force will be holding an interactive Community Input Forum to gather community insights on how broadband service in Cambridge can be improved Wednesday, October 14, from 6-8 p.m., at Cambridge City Hall, Sullivan Chamber, 795 Massachusetts Avenue.



According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in Cambridge increased 40% in the last decade.

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A Better Cambridge 2015 City Council Candidate Ratings: Vote for a Diverse & Livable Cambridge

In an effort to help Cambridge voters make informed choices in the upcoming city council election, ABC is pleased to announce our 2015 city council candidate ratings. These ratings are based on a comprehensive questionnaire distributed to all 23 candidates to measure their level of agreement with key ABC priorities and goals. Higher rated candidates demonstrate a strong understanding of the complex housing and development challenges facing Cambridge today. They are best prepared to make Cambridge a more affordable and livable city for all residents, especially low-income families.

With a total maximum score of 45 points, the ABC candidate ratings are:

Leland Cheung 45
Marc McGovern 41
David Maher 40
Denise Simmons 40
Dennis Benzan 37
Craig Kelley 30
John Sanzone* 30
Tim Toomey 30
Mariko Davidson 29
Gregg Moree 16
Nadeem Mazen 13
Minka vanBeuzekom 12
Jan Devereux 8
Romaine Waite 3
James Williamson 2
Paul Mahoney 1
Mike Connolly -3
Kim Courtney -4
Gary Mello -5
Plinio Degoes -8

Click the image below to view a table summarizing details of the candidate ratings:


Click the image below to view each candidate's full responses to our questionnaire, including ABC's analysis and a description of our methodology:


 Candidates not listed above did not respond to the ABC candidate survey.

* As of October 26th, John Sanzone has withdrawn as a candidate for City Council.

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Housing & Development Forum Recap

While Cambridge’s real estate market booms and population is expected to grow in the coming decade, low and middle-income families in our city still struggle with unaffordable and rising housing costs. How can we ensure that new development in Cambridge serves the housing needs of all families including those with lower incomes? How does this relate to other important development issues -- density, walking/biking/public transit, parking, and creating exciting, walkable neighborhoods?

On Saturday, September 26th A Better Cambridge brought together experts to discuss what Cambridge can do to build a more diverse and affordable city for all families. Click here for a recap of the forum by ABC Chairman Jesse Kanson-Benanav. A full recording of the panel discussion is included below:

The panel was moderated by Dante Ramos, Op-Ed Columnist for the Boston Globe.

Panelists from left to right include:

Materials used in the presentation include:


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