Federico Muchnik

Federico attended the Cambridge Public Schools, having gone to Peabody Elementary followed by the Pilot School at Cambridge Rindge and Latin. He grew up next to Saint Peter’s Field where he played little league baseball for the Cambridge Red Sox. After college he returned to Cambridge where he became an activist, producing films on local issues including a controversial development project in Harvard Square, life inside a youth center in Central Square, and a profile of a visually impaired African-American blues musician living in affordable housing. His interest in activism and politics comes from his mother, Rita Arditti, and her work with women’s rights and science. Federico is a lifelong teacher, most recently as adjunct professor of film production and history at Lesley University. As a long time resident and chronicler of past and present city life, Federico understands Cambridge and its needs. He is a committed, active, involved citizen who enjoys engaging with people and hearing their stories. He brings an articulate voice and unique perspective of what the city has been, where it stands today, and what it can become in the years ahead. Working with the city’s numerous and diverse communities Federico believes there’s a common-sense way to retain Cambridge’s small town charm while continuing to grow as a world-class city.

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?

I’ve rented, I presently own, and I have not lived in public housing, so my experience with housing in Cambridge ranges from living in a dilapidated 2 bedroom with my mother who somehow managed to keep us afloat to buying a condo with my wife and daughter, to living in a short term rental, to owning a home.

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

Build quality affordable public housing.

Revise the AHO to encourage mid-rise, gentle density townhouses in harmony with the surrounding neighborhood. The profit-driven public housing market is part of the problem. Profit, not quality-of-life, is driving land development.

Avoid repeating the public housing mistakes of the past. Build smaller, smarter, more efficient homes. Scale matters: for humane housing, economic and environmental justice.

Promote rent-to-own policies for low income families.

Hold the city and developers accountable in respecting the city’s design heritage.

The “lab bubble” has burst. We need a moratorium on the construction of new lab space in favor of new home construction, especially affordable housing.

Develop a long-term city wide housing plan where all neighborhoods contribute to the city’s affordable housing needs.

Demand that Harvard and M.I.T. follow through on their stated commitment to build more student housing.

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?

Generally Yes. I cannot. The language used in your setup includes words like “weaponize” and your hyperlinks point to documents it will take days if not weeks for me to read, mark up, marinate, digest, interpret, and draw conclusions and action. I am inclined to learn more about zoning laws, reform of the code, and moving to 4 story housing (though I likely draw the line on the number of units per complex). As for “in all Cambridge neighborhoods”, that’s an awfully sweeping statement and seems to run roughshod over the entire city. For example, now that Kendall Square has embraced 20 story buildings, will we build 4 story housing units there? Your statement feels biased towards seeking my approval of your agenda in toto - when - in fact - we likely agree on some things and not on others. Thank you!

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 Yes. The question feels intrinsically biased. Sure, in general I’m for new housing but it’s the market-rate part that irks me, though I won’t go into why here.

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?

Generally Yes. Sure, though what that height and density ought to be is another question.

Do you support the proposed Alewife overlay district?


Do you support also rezoning the Fresh Pond shopping center?

No. I’d be glad to support something I knew more about. Alas, this story isn’t something I’m up on - though I’ll certainly look at your materials.

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)?

No. I could explain to you why the AHO is bad for the city but your questionnaire leads me to believe you are set in your ways, so why spend time trying to change the very tenet that forms the backbone of your platform? Tell you what: I look forward to a spirited debate on the topic, working for the loyal opposition.

More quality affordable housing is the central plank on my campaign’s platform, like you - but we differ on how to accomplish this.

Is it classist for me to say: Fortune Magazine voted Cambridge the #1 city to live in in the USA? Me? A lower middle class guy that grew up here? Did Fortune cite Cambridge’s skyscrapers, wind tunnels, shadowed streets, and Manhattan-esque structures in Kendall as the reason why it’s #1.

The article: https://fortune.com/well/ranking/best-places-families/

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

Yes. Yes, more money for affordable housing. Who wouldn’t want it?

How can Cambridge better protect tenants against displacement?

I’m not well versed on this matter just yet - I promise I will be, but…an anecdote:

I Black blind 72 year old diabetic friend of mine living at 21 Walden Square felt he could no longer stay because auditors for Winn Development reviewing his tax returns suggested he was earning too much to be living at 21. So…somewhat traumatized by the auditor’s yearly examination of his income + Winn Development consistently raising the rent by a hundred bucks or more per year left him no choice but to move - to 15 Lambert Street. Assisted living. He’s not wild about his new place and he misses his friends.

If someone is given a place to live and starts to earn good money, I’m wondering how ethical it is that they have to move out. Complicated, I know.

Anyway…here’s the story, if you’d like to see the film:

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?

Don’t know enough about Wu’s petition to answer.

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

Generally Yes. Cities are very energy efficient. Much more than suburbs. What else is there to say?

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

Generally Not. The matter merits more research. Did you know that the last time Cambridge’s government was changed was in 1940? That’s 83 years and counting under this current form of governing. In 1940 homes had no solar panels, building materials were vastly different, the population was nowhere near as ethnically or economically diverse as it is now, Harvard and MIT pretty much ran the show, there was one postal system, no UPS, no FedEx, no Amazon, no recycling, no IT….no remote work. Anyway…our system of government could most certainly use an update, or at least a closer look - to - you know - perhaps be more in tune with the times.

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?

Generally Yes

Do you support the proposed NCD reforms specifically?

Generally Yes. Let me go to your line: “despite being unrepresentative of the city at large” - - - From what I have learned talking to voters, it’s the City Council they feel is “being unrepresentative of the city at large”.

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?

No, I would not - at first glance - support combining things because I believe a system of checks and balances and a democratic deliberative system based on dialogue and consensus - while it may be clumsy and slow - is still better than a housing Czar sitting behind a desk rubber stamping the wishes of the developer du jour or the current politics of the city council.

How specifically would I hold the City Manager and city staff accountable for meeting housing goals? Answer: Clear and enforceable project management (heck, Microsoft Project is a good tool).

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