ABC News, June 2022: Charter review, affordable housing hearings, parking survey, and more

(Sent Sunday, Jun 26, 2022.) Our City Charter is about to undergo a once-every-10-year review. As a first step, a committee of Cambridge voters (no elected officials) is being formed to review the Charter, hold community forums, gather input from residents and make recommendations to the City Council. You can volunteer to potentially serve on this committee – the deadline is this Tuesday (June 28) at 11pm. A similar (but separate) resident committee recently worked to narrow a pool of 30 City Manager candidates down to four finalists. From that list, the City Council has selected Yi-An Huang as the next Manager. Huang, a Cambridge resident who has held several management positions at Boston Medical Center, is expected to start in September. Like all of the finalists, Huang has expressed strong support for actions to address the effects of Cambridge’s housing crisis, especially regarding our shortage of affordable housing. What are your hopes for what the next City Manager will accomplish? Email us at [email protected]  The city is conducting a 15-month study to ensure that parking regulations align with the City’s goals for traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, climate resilience, housing, economic development and equity. Your input on parking and transportation in this 5-minute survey may help shape the resulting recommendations for potential parking changes scheduled to be drafted by this fall. Continue reading

ABC News, May 2022: City Manager finalists, Alewife rezoning and more

(Sent Wednesday, May 25th.) Four finalists for Cambridge’s next City Manager have been selected! The candidates – see their resumes and questionnaire responses here – will speak and answer questions at a Meet the Finalists forum next Tuesday, May 31. They will also be publicly interviewed by the City Council on Wednesday, June 1.  As we stated in our February letter, it is critical that the next City Manager be a progressive, pro-housing, pro-renter leader. We’d love it if you took a minute to review our letter and email a suggested interview question for the finalists to the City’s search consultant at [email protected] (by noon this Thursday).  If you attend the forum or the interviews, or just are interested, come discuss at the ABC Social on Thursday, June 2, 7-9 pm. Then you can email thoughts to the Council before they cast their votes for Manager at their June 6 meeting.  Continue reading

Upcoming ABC Events

You’re invited to ABC’s upcoming happenings. The Events Committee meets monthly to facilitate and coordinate a variety of housing-related opportunities. Don’t see an event you are interested in? Have an idea for an event that you think those interested in housing affordability would like to see? We welcome new members! Our next meeting is Tuesday, May 24 at 7:00pm. Contact Esther Hanig for the meeting’s Zoom link. Continue reading

ABC News, Apr 2022: New affordable housing, zoning resources, volunteer and social opportunities, and more

(Sent on April 26, 2022.) We need your support for the newest Affordable Housing Overlay project tonight, (April 26) at 6pm. Cambridge Housing Authority is holding a second community meeting about renovation and additions at its current SRO (single room occupancy) building at 116 Norfolk Street. The 38 existing rooms for seniors and people with disabilities will be upgraded to full studio apartments, gaining private kitchens and showers. An additional wing with 24 studio apartments will house formerly unhoused individuals, with targeted services available onsite. Despite these improvements to a 100% affordable housing building and development of new much-needed housing, some nearby residents have been organizing in opposition. Thanks to all who attended Zoned Out: how zoning laws shape our city, ABC’s virtual event on land use regulation. The slides with speaker notes and a brief list of sources and additional readings (including articles, books and a couple of short videos) are now available and are a great starting point for anyone who wants to learn what zoning is about.  Continue reading

ABC Statement on Boards and Commisssions Appointments

(Submitted in advance of an April 12 Govt. Ops Committee hearing.) Dear Members of the Government Operations Committee and Manager DePasquale, Thank you for having your hearing tomorrow, we are grateful that our City’s approach to boards and commissions is being evaluated. A Better Cambridge believes that changing the way we make appointments can make our boards’ decisions better reflect the needs and values of our diverse population. We also believe that the Cambridge City Council should set clearer rules and guidance for casework, enabling boards to better act in accordance with a shared vision for Cambridge. These unrepresentative boards wield significant power in shaping our City, and we’re hopeful for a more democratic decision-making process.  Continue reading

ABC News, March 2022: events, Alewife Quad, parking and more

(Sent on Monday, March 28th.) The city’s Housing Committee recently agreed on an increase in the linkage fee – paid by developers of commercial projects to fund affordable housing – from $20 to $33/sq ft. Councilors had previously raised the fee in much smaller increments out of concern that it might deter future projects. Given the continued stream of commercial development and the current hot status of the Cambridge real estate market, the committee unanimously recommended the full Council set the rate at the maximum legally supported by the 2019 “nexus” study, and looked forward to beginning a new nexus study later this year. Would you like to help choose the next City Manager? You can apply for a spot on the initial screening committee until this Thursday (3/31) at 5pm. The committee will question candidates for the job at three in-person meetings in May. Check out the City Manager job description and requirements.  In mid-March, ABC members set up a table in Porter Square and distributed flyers spreading the word about housing issues and ABC. Additional tabling is planned for this weekend and the coming months. Contact Neil Miller if you can help. (More on other upcoming ABC activities below). Continue reading

Tackling Housing Unaffordability in Cambridge

Tackling Housing Unaffordability in Cambridge (Published in Banker & Tradesman on March 27th, 2022.) The housing crisis in Cambridge has been worsening for decades now. With the highest rents in the entire state, there’s no end in sight for growing unaffordability. Decades of underbuilding housing and underinvesting in affordable housing have led to overcrowding, displacement, and skyrocketing costs. The human costs of this crisis are severe and multifaceted. Whether you’re one of the 21,000 families on Cambridge Housing Authority waitlists, a renter desperate to hold onto tenuous, low-quality housing in a market where landlords hold all the cards, a local graduate or would-be immigrant or refugee turned away by high costs, or simply experiencing fraying community bonds as more and more long-time neighbors move out, you know the severe and multi-faceted harms of this crisis on an economic and a human level. Continue reading

DOUBLE ACTION ALERT: Support multi-family and affordable housing this week

(Sent Sunday, March 13, 2022.) This week, there will be two public meetings about new pro-housing policies - one on ending exclusionary zoning, and one on more funding for affordable housing. See below for details. Your support can help make a difference. Please email the City Council and the Planning Board to share your perspective! Continue reading

ABC News, Feb 2022: New affordable housing, letters to the editor, and more

(Sent on February 24th, 2022.) Cambridge Housing Authority’s plan for rebuilding and increasing the public housing at Jefferson Park Federal has been praised by the Planning Board and is on its way to a building permit. CHA recently proposed more affordable housing at 116 Norfolk Street, which now contains 37 single-room-occupancy units. The city’s 5th AHO project will convert the existing units to studio apartments and add similar units in a rear addition for those now unhoused, for up to 62 units total. Anonymous opposition flyers are already being distributed around the neighborhood. Relatedly, even tenants who have Section 8 certificates find many vacant apartments closed to them. CHA, which administers the S8 rent-subsidy program, reports that few tenants are able to rent from small local landlords, despite a state law prohibiting discrimination against subsidized tenants. As a result, low-income households become concentrated in a small number of large buildings in few neighborhoods. A recent JCHS study finds that economic segregation of renters is increasing nationwide, noting that “as low-cost units become increasingly scarce, low- and moderate-income renters are losing access to many neighborhoods.”  ABC members wrote two outstanding letters to the editor this month, keeping the spotlight on vital housing issues in the Cambridge Chronicle. Danny Hidalgo called out the Planning Board’s apparent lack of understanding of the housing crisis and its effects on the poor, while Neil Miller illustrated the consequences of our outdated zoning with a report on a recently-demolished corner store near his apartment. Have something you would like to tell Cambridge about? Writing a letter to the editor is a great way to do it! Continue reading

ACTION ALERT: Help Cambridge hire a progressive, pro-housing city manager

(Sent Sunday, February 13th, 2022.) In Cambridge’s Plan E system of government, the City Manager is the most powerful office. They are hired by the City Council and, with their direction, run the entire executive branch of government; including proposing the budget, nominees to boards and commissions, and other key decisions that guide our City. Cambridge is hiring a new City Manager this spring, and the results of the hiring process will have a profound impact on the direction of the City for many years. A Better Cambridge has released a letter detailing what we want to see from the hiring process and the next city manager, including: Continue reading