Robert Eckstut moved to Cambridge 15 years ago. In 2008 Robert wrote a book breaking down the complexity of poker into actionable processes. Robert has worked as a life coach, data analyst, and for the US Census. Robert is a Lesley University alumnus. As a renter, Robert believes in fighting for renter's rights.
How have your experiences, prior to or outside of seeking elected office, shaped your views on housing and land use in Cambridge?
Very much so; I've lived here for 15 years. Of that, almost all of it has been as a renter. I've experienced both "good" and "bad" landlords, I've experienced rent surges as well as being forced out of units due to construction/renovation, and I've experienced being taken advantage of due to lack of tenant rights. This lived experience would be very unique among the current city council, and in my view, is desperately needed.
In your own work, what have you done to advance the goals for the City of Cambridge that you care about?
I care a lot about low income and subsidized housing. I've interviewed ~1000 people who live in these properties; this connection and understanding is once again not present in the current council, and something unique and necessary I could bring to the table.
What is a stand or action you have taken that has displeased some Cambridge voters?
I've been very vocal about fighting for the renters. This apparently has already been rocking some boats; I welcome that.
What are models and/or strategies Cambridge should use to create more income-restricted affordable housing?
It all comes down to funding. ABC wants more housing, which I obviously agree is a necessary part of the solution. I favor the 3 and 1 model (3 new units per 1 affordable housing unit) which would bring Cambridge closer to 25% affordable housing. (A goal that is both pragmatic, as well as actually moves the needle as far as the CHA list is concerned)
Do you agree that only broad market affordability will maintain Cambridge as a community for everyone and Cambridge should lead the region to increase local and regional housing supply?
Yes. We need to build more housing. Full stop. My own belief, which coincides with ABC (which is why I am very comfortable seeking your endorsement!) is going vertical. The current zoning prohibits this, largely, so I would do everything in my power to change that.
How can Cambridge better protect tenants against displacement? (Please focus your answer on strategies within municipal authority.)
Legislation such as Rent Control are outside the veneer of municipal power - it's illegal state wide, and there isn't much that can be done from a city council seat. However, the 3 primary methods to face displacement are all within the power of a city councilor: 1. Can increase funding for lawyer services to those tenants facing eviction (legal fund, such as Greater Boston Legal Services) 2. Can institute various rent stabilization policies to lessen the harm done by greedy landlords/property companies 3. Inclusionary housing. This is what has drawn me to ABC proposals (again, such as the 3 and 1) since it enables the supply to increase while still enabling low income housing/affordable housing. Those who are threatened most by displacement are naturally low income families/individuals; creating more homes does the most to fight this displacement.
Do you believe we have a climate obligation to pursue greater density and allow more people to live here?
Yes. I mentioned going vertical in a previous answer; it's the most logical step. I love population density - otherwise I wouldn't have chosen to live in a city, obviously... The benefits are pretty sizable. Big boon to both climate as well as housing issues with very few drawbacks.
Do you support the affordable housing proposal at 2072 Mass Ave?
Yes. Seems like the path to success is predicated upon who is in a position to vote on these proposals. If you have the right people in office, more of these proposals will succeed.
Do you support changing neighborhood zoning, including dimensional standards, to allow small-scale multi-family housing like triple-deckers, four-plexes, and six-plexes?
Yes. This just seems like a no-brainer to me. City wide zoning code is 50+ years in the past. It's time to elect new leadership who will go through antiquated zoning code and make wide-scale changes.
Do you believe Cambridge should stop requiring new off-street parking for all residential development?
Yes. Another pretty clear/level headed push. Helps create more space for housing and also combats the use of cars from an indirect position. Love it.
Do you believe Neighborhood Conservation District rules need reform?
Generally. Unsure how it should be specifically be reformed.
Do you support a municipally funded right to counsel for every Cambridge tenant facing eviction?
Yes. I highlighted this earlier in a different question; biggest stress on tenants is not understanding their rights / not having the resources to fight properly. I heavily support this.
How far, if at all, should the City Council go in encouraging transit-oriented development? How should the City Council go about doing it?
I'm pushing for free-fare transit. I believe it's the most progressive/beneficial to those with the fewest resources.
How would you evaluate the City Council's approach to sustainability over the last few years--what is one aspect you agree with and one aspect you disagree with?
As a challenger, I'd rather not heavily praise the current city council - since if I believed they were doing a great job, it would be fairly egotistical of me to even run. However, I don't think they've done a good job, so I can't name anything that is encouraging.
What can the next City Manager do to promote your housing priorities?
I am of the opinion the city manager has far too much power, and the most important issue/priority for me is to strip the city manager of all their power and redistribute it to the city council. The current model is very undemocratic, and has been the biggest reason progressive agendas are dying before they are even given a chance to live.
What should the city do to increase walking, biking, and transit usage in Cambridge?
I took the Cambridge Biking Safety pledge; I also believe in free pubilc transit. Many people of whom I've spoken have complained about sidewalks, specifically handicapped people who have trouble with the state of our walkways. Given I believe in as few cars as possible, I think an increase of bike lanes, free transit, and improved sidewalks is the best way to achieve this goal.
Aside from housing and land use issues, what are some major priorities you hope to push for on the City Council?
Housing and transportation are the top two issues I've heard while canvassing, and are the 2 big issues I'm basing my campaign on. Although I understand there are many many issues, I'm more malleable/amenable to those priorities as I just don't see them as nearly important as the housing and transportation crises.