Robert Winters

I have been actively involved in Cambridge civic affairs for over 35 years.

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?

My primary reasons for being a candidate are (a) the Charter review process; (b) lack of City Council responsiveness; and (c) I have a great deal of expertise to offer.

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

Permitting housing growth where most appropriate while acknowledging that no city can address housing affordability unilaterally.

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 Not. Some areas are best suited to greater heights and densities than others - in particular those areas with ample public transportation.

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. Though on a regional level greater supply should satisfy some demand and reduce prices/rents, this is not always the case in more confined geographical areas.

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. I don’t this need much explanation. This is the policy endorsed by the Commonwealth and it’s generally a good strategy.

Do you support the proposed Alewife overlay district?

Generally Yes

Do you support also rezoning the Fresh Pond shopping center?

Generally Yes. I would support inclusion of the shopping center, but I would not necessarily support 18-20 stories. That would require a lot more community input and feedback from all quarters.

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 didn’t support he original “Affordable Housing Overlay” as written or as originally proposed when I was a member of the Envision Cambridge Housing Working Group, and the current proposal is worse. There are far better and fairer ways to do this. It should not just be about maximizing the number of subsidized units.

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

No. The City has many needs, and the focus on subsidized housing without any constraints or goals is wrongheaded.

How can Cambridge better protect tenants against displacement?

Existing and future tenants and potential homeowners need more options in Cambridge and in the region. The economy and the workforce has changed and continues to change as it has since Cambridge was established. I do not support rent control and I am suspicious of various rent stabilization schemes that may unfairly restrict property owners from making good decisions about their property. All too often tenant protections translate into owners defensively creating high barriers to entry for tenants.

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

Generally Not

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?

If a rent stabilization program to cap exorbitant increases was proposed with no other provisions, I might support that. Unfortunately, no such proposal has yet been floated.

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

Generally Not. Cambridge is already is one of the most densely populated cities in the state and the country. There are some opportunities for additional growth, but I would not support wholesale disruption to the residential character of Cambridge.

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

Generally Yes. If you would like a good explanation of proportional representation I would be happy to oblige. I would like to see more input and more effective input from residents generally, but I would not support the creation of gerrymandered wards.

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 Not

Do you support the proposed NCD reforms specifically?

No. I don’t agree with your assessments of what actually happened with some of the examples you choose to cite. I also have significant concerns about what the real agenda is behind eviscerating neighborhood conservation districts which have generally been a good thing.

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 don’t believe that 12,500 figure was ever meant to be anything other than an estimate, and I don’t recall it ever being decided upon by either the Envision Cambridge Housing Working Group (I was a member and attended every meeting) or the overall Envision Cambridge Advisory Committee (also a member). City staff simply penciled it in. I might support the creation of a Housing Department even if only to bring its function out of CDD and into the daylight.

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

I would like to participate in your Candidate Forum even though my positions do not align very well with those of your organization. That said, I think I have a lot to offer as a city councillor in many ways that go well beyond the narrow agenda of your organization.