Ayah Al-Zubi

In this reality, as the youngest candidate, I deeply grasp the disillusionment many feel about our politics. My campaign for Cambridge City Council is driven by the belief that we can rebuild the bonds between government and our community. In these changing times, with innovation as our guide, we have a moral duty as leaders to serve the people with unwavering justice, radical transparency, and a relentless commitment to the pursuit of a fairer future for all.

What is your personal experience of housing in Cambridge and how has that affected your decision to run for city council? Do you rent or own? Have you ever lived in public or subsidized housing?

As a renter who has experienced the reality of Cambridge’s soaring rents, my journey reflects the everyday struggles many of us face. From the exhausting days of moving under the scorching sun, to the unlikely friendships formed with the mice in my apartment, I understand the challenges of renting. This connection to the struggle runs deep, having lived as a nomad during my childhood, beginning in affordable housing and never getting the chance to build a stable community.

As City Councillor, what would be your top priorities to address our housing crisis?

As we tackle these pressing housing issues, we need to focus on creating more affordable housing and prevent biotech and pharmaceutical companies from driving up housing costs if they’re not going to do their part in addressing the housing crises. Right now, with the AHO we’re making progress on creating the opportunities to build affordable housing, but we need to incentivize the creation of these homes. Also, it’s crucial to support tenant rights through a rental assistance program and we need to bring our homeless community into the conversation. Because someone doesn’t have the means to secure a home, it doesn’t mean their worth should be lost in the conversation. This includes all forms of homelessness: transitional, chronic, episodic, and hidden. We need to work more on investing in our homeless shelters so that we invest in our most vulnerable communities. The bottom line is that we should always put people over profit.

As Councillor, will you champion efforts to end exclusionary zoning in Cambridge by reforming the zoning code to allow, at minimum, four-story multi-family housing by right in all Cambridge neighborhoods?

Yes. Despite the Supreme Court ruling in Buchanan v. Warley in 1917, which ended race-based zoning, many cities across the United States continued to use methods that bypassed this ruling to maintain segregation of people of color. We need to support the low-income, people of color, and working class families who have been systemically boxed out of their right to live prosperously. Our Affordable Housing Overlay currently supports this progress, but explicitly up-zoning for our market-rate will exacerbate the declining livelihood of the working class people. If for-profit developers want to build, they should also be held to the responsibility of serving the low-income people. We need to build proactive measures to make sure we maintain empathy in our fight for justice.

In conjunction with direct support for affordable housing and inclusionary zoning requirements, do you believe that new market-rate housing development is a key pillar in making Cambridge an affordable city?

Generally Not. The deep-seeded grip of capitalism will have you thinking that this is a key pillar, but you can’t expect to solve the problem by the very same system that put us in this place.

Do you believe Cambridge should go further to promote transit-oriented housing development, such as allowing greater height and density within walking distance of MBTA stations?

Yes. Our AHO has made intentional progress with this question. Also, I believe that we need to work with our universities because having two world-class institutions in two squares with billions of dollars, means we need to hold our ground and work with them to address student housing in a way that also builds more affordable housing and frees up housing that students are in. These institutions need to invest more in the infrastructure that their students are using. So, they need to stand by their grand missions of making the world a better place by investing in the spaces and people they have historically taken advantage of.

Do you support the proposed Alewife overlay district?

Generally Yes

Do you support also rezoning the Fresh Pond shopping center?

Generally Yes. I believe we should make sure that 40% actually goes to residential because it’s not guaranteed. With Fresh Pond, these 18-20 stories need to show more intentionality towards building affordable units. We also need to bring in public transportation more into this conversation to ensure the connectivity and accessibility of these plans to elevate their sustainability and potential.

Do you support the proposal to expand the Affordable Housing Overlay to allow more height for 100% affordable housing development in major squares (15 stories) and corridors (12 stories)?

Yes. The AHO’s expansion is a great advancement towards ensuring the diversity of Cambridge. Especially as we envision our squares, this will bring more vibrancy and community to Cambridge. This will also encourage use of public transportation because the relationship between the two is pivotal to ensuring that people can live, access their jobs and explore the spaces around them.

Do you support further increasing city funding for affordable housing to 10% of the City budget?

Yes. Our budget, one of the largest in the New England region, has the capacity to invest more in affordable housing—especially when it’s the top concern of Cambridge residents.

How can Cambridge better protect tenants against displacement?

We need to support tenants through right-to-counsel, increase access to support for those experiencing transitional homelessness, and explore a rental assistance program, all of which we could move forward with by creating a team in the City dedicated to this.

ABC has repeatedly supported state legislation enabling cities to better protect tenants. Do you support such legislation?


If something like it passed, what kind of city tenant protections would you favor? Would you support any kind of rent stabilization, such as the petition from Mayor Wu, which would cap rent increases at a maximum of 10% while exempting new construction, along with requiring just cause for eviction?

We need rent stabilization, but at a lower percentage than Mayor Wu’s. I can’t afford to rent the apartment I’m in at a 10% cap, let alone a 5%. We also need to make sure we’re continuing to address limiting condo conversions because they are also hurting renters in Cambridge.

Do you believe we have a climate obligation to pursue greater density city-wide and allow more people to live here?

Yes. Housing policy is intersectional with so many other policies including climate, racial, and economic to name a few. Pursuing climate policy and housing policy is powerful in also addressing racial justice. This is because the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect people of color, especially BIPOC communities. We need to invest in climate conscious initiatives like more green spaces for high density areas.

Do you favor an at-large system over a ward-based system?

Yes. We need to maintain proportional representation and transitioning to a ward-based system would not support this. By staying in the system we’re in, we’re calling on City Councillors to remain aware and invested in the different neighborhoods in Cambridge and how they’re impacted.

The City Council is currently considering NCD reforms which would increase diversity on boards and commissions, amplify the voices of renters, exempt affordable housing, and enforce term limits. Do you believe these bodies need reform generally?


Do you support the proposed NCD reforms specifically?

Yes. We need to increase the diversity of these boards, part of this is a total lack of access to political engagement. Historically, this has been afforded to a particular demographic, so we need to think of productive ways to increase the diversity and at the foundation of this is accessibility to knowledge and power.

Would you support combining the City’s housing functions in a new Housing Department headed by a new Assistant City Manager, or is there an alternative approach to organization / staffing you would support? How specifically would you hold the City Manager and city staff accountable for meeting housing goals?

Yes, I would support is this. I would be in conversation with the City Manager via meetings making sure I as a representative hold the City Manager accountable. Part of this also includes making sure we create a structure in which we stay organized on all policy orders, their dates, and actions taken all accessible to the community.

Do you have anything else you’d like to highlight about your candidacy?

Housing is a human right. It is a building block in creating community. We need to be intentional about our commitment to supporting the communities that have been historically neglected. It is an intersectional issue, meaning when we talk about housing, we need to talk about climate justice, racial justice, economic justice, and educational equity. My background has been in education and sports advocacy. There is nothing stronger than coming together in community and growing in knowledge on our stories, data, and history to under how we can and should move forward. I want to listen and I want to grow with you to create a more safe, just, and vibrant Cambridge.