Hao Wang

My name is Hao Wang, and I am seeking election to the first term on the Cambridge City Council. I lived in Cambridge for 30 years and am a homeowner for 25. Coming from China as a student, I owe Cambridge for my postgraduate education, having earned my Ph.D. from MIT and MPA from Harvard. My elder son Juneau Wang goes to BU, and my younger son wants to go to MIT, both for biology. I am running because I love Cambridge and want it to be an inclusive, livable city with sustainability and competent government. Having served in government, not-for-profit, and private sector, helping some of the world’s leading cities transform, I want to help Cambridge achieve its goals and objectives. I am an engineer by training, knowing the technologies and methods for electrification, environmental conservation, and new energy vehicles. Having worked in the country’s largest mental health systems, I have dealt with behavioral health crises, opioid abuse, and homelessness in New York City. I want to help Cambridge in its current and future challenges.

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 have been a resident for 30 years and homeowner for 25 in Cambridge. I never lived in public or subsidized housing. My housing experience here included being a student living on MIT campus, a landlord renting my units, a human service executive, and an educator teaching public informatics. In New York City, in the last three plus years, I worked for a not-for-profit health and human service agency that routinely housed 3,000 of people who otherwise would be unhoused or in severe behavioral illness. Housing security is critical to public health and our social stability. I have been a board member of our own Riverside Community Care for two years. I believe our not-for-profit organizations can lead the way to address our housing crisis and I believe it will take all of us, including Harvard, MIT, and larger business, in addition to an efficient government, to overcome our challenges.

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

Essential workforce housing, in the midst of the housing crisis, is my top priority. I have authored an op-ed on Cambridge Day (https://www.cambridgeday.com/2023/09/05/workforce-housing-is-critical-for-cambridge-keeping-the-essential-from-doctors-to-police/) alerting the exodus of our essential workers from doctors to police to city workers. We are just out of the pandemic, we learnt how important our essential workers are to our communities. As for low income housing at large, I am supportive of an eventual dual-pricing system similar to that of Singapore where I specifically studied affordable housing policies and public health infrastructure. I want to compare and share other cities’ experience for a long term strategy for Cambridge.

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 share the sentiment in the framing of this question. Cambridge should be an anti-racist city. We should be inclusive. I disagree, though; the historical city zoning was solely created for racial and class segregation. Our Cambridge was beautiful today because our residents wanted specific architectural standards and the separation between business and residential districts. We should allow more housing in the city and relax the zoning in selected corridors and squares, but in doing so we should not eliminate our identity and character formed in the last 400 years. As a city councilor, I will be steadfast in pushing for affordable housing while upholding our architectural standards and protecting our character.

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?

Yes. As a diverse and inclusive City, Cambridge should not exclude any vibrant commercial sector. As a graduate of Harvard and MIT, I stayed to live and work here after graduation. I could only imagine when our sons and daughters want to do the same after theirs. We should maintain attractiveness to young professionals who earn enough to live and work here and keep Cambridge renewed and vibrant.

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. For historical squares such as Harvard Square, regardless of how close it is to the public transit, as a city councilor, I will advocate the preservation of the existing landscape and topology, not to use it to accommodate affordable housing. I will work hard to go above and beyond for transit-oriented housing development elsewhere.

Do you support the proposed Alewife overlay district?

Generally Yes

Do you support also rezoning the Fresh Pond shopping center?

No. I will pay attention to the details of this overlay. Alewife is close to public transit. There are new developments there already. Though I wish the new buildings had been designed more excellently, nothing beats adding a few thousand housing units for Cambridge. I think the power station in the area should be redesigned indoors so that more floors can be created to house electricity peak-shaping solutions. The Fresh Pond shopping center should be enlarged (in terms of square footage) to support more businesses instead of residential as part of the community infrastructure necessary for the new housing units.

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. I believe affordable housing and workforce housing can benefit from these new developments. In many aspects, it is the best way to go. However, as a city councilor, I will be sensitive to preserving certain historical characters in the squares and corridors to prevent them from being damaged and removed.

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

Generally Not. I need to learn more about the city budget analysis. In general, I want us to balance our budget. I may very well support such an increase should savings from other projects can fund it.

How can Cambridge better protect tenants against displacement?

The essential workforce housing should consider housing allowance to help tenants pay rent. Cambridge has done an excellent job protecting tenants’ rights.

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

Generally Yes

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 should study how rent stabilization worked for New York City. The reality is NYC had tens of thousands of units vacant, while the rent is skyrocketing and more people than ever needed apartment rental. As a city councilor, I want to simulate the solution to see how much impact it has on the city residents.

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

Generally Yes. New technologies are available to regulate energy consumption in apartment buildings. If we support large and dense buildings to be built in the city, it is the best time to implement green energy and energy consumption monitoring during construction.

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

Generally Yes. The city has been divisive and polarized over critical issues. I understand why some of us want to return to a ward-based system. However, that will run the risk of hardening the divide. I’d rather keep working the system to advocate civic engagement.

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. I am supportive of broader representations in the relevant boards and committees.

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?

I would delegate this decision to the City Manager.

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

For Cambridge to be an inclusive and livable city, I support essential workforce housing, thriving local businesses, competent and fair government, and a sustainable environment. Any significant policies that ignore civic engagement and even displace some of our residents should be discarded. As a city councilor, I will rely on data and transparent reporting, focusing on solutions rather than political ideologues. We need to reunite the divided city.