Election day is one week away. When you vote for the next city council on Tuesday, November 3rd, we hope you’ll use ABC’s candidate ratings and questionnaire as a guide. Our city is at a critical crossroads. Cambridge, with its many virtues, has become an increasingly attractive place to live. Coupled with our underproduction of housing for the last decade, this demand has also made Cambridge more attractive to developers seeking to maximize profit. This reality brings with it many challenges to the character of our city and to the diversity of our community. We believe this reality also provides an opportunity that can be leveraged to preserve our diversity and build a more vibrant city for all residents. In September, ABC hosted a public discussion with three experts in affordable housing and development to understand the challenges and opportunities facing Cambridge. The consensus was clear: Cambridge must add substantially to the current housing stock in order to meet demand and slow the precipitous increase in housing prices: We must be certain that this increase in housing produces as many affordable units, including middle income and family housing, as is economically feasible. With affordable units required by inclusionary zoning and subsidized by market rate rents, together with units produced by the city working with our housing nonprofits using city parking lots and increased linkage fees, we can make substantial inroads in providing affordable housing. Building more housing in areas with substantial public transportation, transportation that needs to grow as our region grows, close to large areas of employment will create transit oriented communities. These communities, where people can shop, work, play and live with the least amount of car usage, are the future of a sustainable Cambridge. Facing both a climate crisis and a housing crisis, the time for Cambridge to embrace this future is now. These are the issues that guide the ABC city council candidate questionnaire and ratings -- A higher rating demonstrates a candidate’s alignment with the ABC goals and priorities. With these issues in mind, we hope these ratings will be an important tool in your decision about who to vote for next Tuesday. These ratings are our best attempt at a fair assessment but there is always an element of subjectivity in ratings. Judge for yourself by reading full text of the candidates responses. If you find these ratings useful, we urge you to share with friends, family, neighbors and colleagues.
With the election approaching ABC encourages everyone to attend our City Council Candidates Forum hosted by WBUR’s Robin Young on Thursday, October 15th at 6:30 pm. The event takes place at the Broad Institute at 415 Main Street. DEVELOPMENT UPDATES A Better Cambridge released its City Council Candidate Ratings. The ratings are based on a comprehensive questionnaire distributed to all 23 candidates to measure their level of agreement with key ABC priorities and goals. Higher rated candidates demonstrate a strong understanding of the complex housing and development challenges facing Cambridge today. They are best prepared to make Cambridge a more affordable and livable city for all residents, especially low-income families. To view the ratings and the complete questionnaire click on the link below. ABC Candidate Ratings ABC hosted an affordable housing forum on September 26th, bringing together three statewide housing experts to discuss solutions to the housing crisis facing the region. A recap of the forum, along with a video of the event can be found here. Jesse Kanson-Benanav wrote an op-ed in the Cambridge Chronicle summarizing the event.Cambridge ChronicleThe City Council voted to triple the linkage fee to $12 a square foot for new commercial development with a $1 increase each year for the next three years. These fees help to preserve and create affordable housing in the city. Cambridge Chronicle According to new Census Bureau figures, the Greater Boston area has the second tightest rental market in the nation, with a vacancy rate of only 2.6%.Boston Globe UPCOMING EVENTS ABC is sponsoring a housing forum for the City Council candidates on Thursday, October 15th from 6:30 – 9:30 pm. The event will take place at the Broad Institute at 415 Main Street and will be moderated by Robin Young from WBUR’s Here and Now. The City Council election is Tuesday, November 3rd. Don’t forget to Vote. The deadline for voter registration is Wednesday, October 14th. You can register to vote here.City of Cambridge Don’t know where to vote? Visit wheredoivotema.com to find out.The City’s Broadband Task Force will be holding an interactive Community Input Forum to gather community insights on how broadband service in Cambridge can be improved Wednesday, October 14, from 6-8 p.m., at Cambridge City Hall, Sullivan Chamber, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. LINKS OF INTEREST There is No Such Thing As a City That Has Run Out of Room Boston Defies the Laws of Housing Physics For Renters, a Bleak Future This Woman Has a Plan to Fix San Francisco’s Affordable Housing Crisis – But Homeowners Won’t Like It DID YOU KNOW? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in Cambridge increased 40% in the last decade.
In an effort to help Cambridge voters make informed choices in the upcoming city council election, ABC is pleased to announce our 2015 city council candidate ratings. These ratings are based on a comprehensive questionnaire distributed to all 23 candidates to measure their level of agreement with key ABC priorities and goals. Higher rated candidates demonstrate a strong understanding of the complex housing and development challenges facing Cambridge today. They are best prepared to make Cambridge a more affordable and livable city for all residents, especially low-income families. With a total maximum score of 45 points, the ABC candidate ratings are: Leland Cheung 45 Marc McGovern 41 David Maher 40 Denise Simmons 40 Dennis Benzan 37 Craig Kelley 30 John Sanzone* 30 Tim Toomey 30 Mariko Davidson 29 Gregg Moree 16 Nadeem Mazen 13 Minka vanBeuzekom 12 Jan Devereux 8 Romaine Waite 3 James Williamson 2 Paul Mahoney 1 Mike Connolly -3 Kim Courtney -4 Gary Mello -5 Plinio Degoes -8 Click the image below to view a table summarizing details of the candidate ratings: Click the image below to view each candidate's full responses to our questionnaire, including ABC's analysis and a description of our methodology: Candidates not listed above did not respond to the ABC candidate survey. * As of October 26th, John Sanzone has withdrawn as a candidate for City Council. Continue reading
While Cambridge’s real estate market booms and population is expected to grow in the coming decade, low and middle-income families in our city still struggle with unaffordable and rising housing costs. How can we ensure that new development in Cambridge serves the housing needs of all families including those with lower incomes? How does this relate to other important development issues -- density, walking/biking/public transit, parking, and creating exciting, walkable neighborhoods? On Saturday, September 26th A Better Cambridge brought together experts to discuss what Cambridge can do to build a more diverse and affordable city for all families. Click here for a recap of the forum by ABC Chairman Jesse Kanson-Benanav. A full recording of the panel discussion is included below: The panel was moderated by Dante Ramos, Op-Ed Columnist for the Boston Globe. Panelists from left to right include: Andre Leroux, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance Aaron Gornstein, President/CEO of Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) & former Massachusetts Undersecretary for Housing & Community Development Ed Marchant, affordable housing development consultant and Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Materials used in the presentation include: PowerPoint presentation by Andre Leroux Development finance sheets used by Ed Marchant
You're Invited to a Community Forum: Housing that Cambridge can Afford At the Epicenter of Development & Demand While Cambridge’s real estate market booms and population is expected to grow in the coming decade, low and middle-income families in our city still struggle with unaffordable and rising housing costs. How can we ensure that new development in Cambridge serves the housing needs of all families including those with lower incomes? How does this relate to other important development issues - density, walking/biking/public transit, parking, and creating exciting, walkable neighborhoods? A Better Cambridge brings together experts to discuss what Cambridge can do to build a more diverse and affordable city for all families. Panelists include: Aaron GornsteinPresident/CEO, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) Edward MarchantAffordable Housing Development Consultant and Adjunct Lecturer of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government Andre LerouxExecutive Director, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance Moderator: Dante RamosBoston Globe Op-Ed Columnist Saturday, September 26th 3:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M. at the Citywide Senior Center 806 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge To RSVP visit: http://www.abettercambridge.org/housing_forum_2015 For questions please contact [email protected]
As campaign season ramps up, there are numerous updates on long standing city initiatives. Below please find the September ABC Newsletter. DEVELOPMENT UPDATES The Planning Board approved preliminary plans from MIT for new development on surface parking lots around Kendall Square. In addition to lab and commercial space, there will be new graduate student housing.Cambridge Chronicle The city announced that it has selected Utile Architecture + Planning to run the citywide master plan project.Cambridge Chronicle The city is exploring a possible fee on real estate development in Kendall Square that would go toward public transit improvements.Boston Globe A 20-unit affordable housing development near Kendall Square funded by MassDevelopment will begin construction later this year.Boston Business Journal UPCOMING EVENTS On Saturday, September 26th from 3:00 – 5:00 pm, ABC will present a panel of housing experts for a discussion on affordability in Cambridge. The event will take place at the Citywide Senior Center at 806 Mass. Ave. ABC is sponsoring a housing forum for the City Council candidates on Thursday, October 15th from 6:30 – 9:30 pm. The event will take place at the Broad Institute at 415 Main Street and will be moderated by Robin Young from WBUR’s Here and Now. There will be no ABC general meeting in September. The city is conducting a charrette on homelessness from September 15th-18th.City of Cambridge PARKing Day, which will transform 60 parking spaces around the city will take place Friday, September 18th.City of Cambridge The 20th annual Danehy Park Family Day is on Saturday, September 19th. City of Cambridge LINKS OF INTEREST Boston’s Middle-Income Base Eroding Mass. Advocates Warn Of Loss Of Thousands Of Affordable Units The Way We Measure Affordability Is Broken DID YOU KNOW? According to a recent US Census report, automobile commuting in the Boston metro area decreased to 75.6% in 2013 from 78.9% in 2006. Only San Francisco reported a larger decline.
Summer is coming to an end which means a return to weekly Council meetings next month and the campaigns for City Council and School Committee ramping up. Below please find the August ABC newsletter. DEVELOPMENT UPDATES The City Council is set to increase linkage fees to $12 per square foot from $4.58 with an addition of $1 each year for the next three years. These fees which are paid by commercial developers help fund new and existing affordable housing within the city.Boston Globe A commercial and residential development proposal for part of Kendall Square near Broadway and Galilelo Galilei Way was released. The development would require zoning changes.Cambridge ChronicleBoston Business Journal MIT unveiled a $1.2 billion plan for the area immediately around the Kendall Square T stop. Plans include adding graduate student housing and construction could begin as early as next year.Boston Globe There are three firms applying to lead the citywide planning process that is expected to be completed in the next three years. It is likely the contract will be awarded sometime this month.Cambridge Chronicle There are officially 24 candidates for City Council and 11 candidates for School Committee. The election will be held on Tuesday, November 3rd.Cambridge Civic JournalCambridge Chroncile UPCOMING EVENTS The next A Better Cambridge general meeting will take place on Thursday, September 17th at 7 pm. Location TBD. CDD will be holding an informal drop-in conversation on the Volpe Center rezoning on Thursday, August 20th from 11 am to 2 pm at the Kendall Square Farmers Market (350 Kendall Street). There will also be a sit-down forum that was rescheduled from August 17th announced in the coming weeks. Community Development Department The city is accepting project ideas for the second round of participatory budgeting through August 31st.City of Cambridge LINKS OF INTEREST Many American Cities are Smaller Than They Used to Be, So Why Do They Feel So Full? Minneapolis Has a Surprisingly Simple Plan to Cut Traffic and Make Housing More Affordable What’s the Matter With the Planning Process? More Young Adults in Cities Are Giving Up on Driving to Work DID YOU KNOW? According to the American Public Transportation Survey, an individual in the Boston metro area that switches their commute to public transportation would save more than $14,000 a year.
July brings the announcements for candidates for City Council and School Committee. As of July 13th, 25 candidates for City Council and 12 School Committee candidates have filed papers. Below please find the July ABC Newsletter. DEVELOPMENT UPDATES The City Council and Planning Board held a joint meeting at the end of June to discuss zoning changes for the Volpe Center site in Kendall Square. This is a complex situation involving the federal government as well as private developers. Meetings will continue throughout the summer.Cambridge Chronicle The Boston Globe reported on rising prices for office space in Greater Boston. Commercial rents in Kendall Square are averaging above $70 per square foot. There was also a report on housing permits in Boston in the first half of 2015. Around 43% of the permitted 2,461 units fall into either the affordable housing category, for low-income residents, or will be priced as middle-class units.Boston Globe 07.07.15Boston Globe 07.08.15 People often ask A Better Cambridge to explain the affordable housing and development-related terms we regularly use. This guide, written by Matthew Yglesias, former Cantabrigian and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High: What To Do About It, And Why It Matters More Than You Think, provides a concise and useful primer on affordable housing, zoning, development, and more.Affordable Housing Explained UPCOMING EVENTS The next A Better Cambridge general meeting will take place on Wednesday, August 12th at 7 pm. Location TBD. The Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code by adding a new chapter entitled Open Data Ordinance today, July 15th at 5:30 pm.City of Cambridge On Monday, July 27th at 5:30 pm, the three consultant teams selected to interview for the upcoming citywide planning process will present to the public on their teams and overall project approaches including answering questions.CDD The City's Broadband Task Force, charged developing options for cheaper and faster Internet in Cambridge will be meeting on Thursday, July 30th at 6 pm, in City Hall. Family movie screenings will be taking place at parks around the city on Wednesday nights through July and August.Screen on the Green LINKS OF INTEREST A Brief History of Boston’s Public Parks The Urban Housing Crunch Costs the U.S. Economy About $1.6 Trillion a Year Who Votes in Cambridge? Can Boston Become America’s Best BRT Town? DID YOU KNOW? According to 2013 Census Data, 13% of Cambridge households have no internet access at all.
Action Alert: Two important hearings tonight that could impact the future of affordable housing in Cambridge
Tonight the Cambridge Planning Board and the City Council’s Ordinance Committee are both holding important meetings that I wanted to make you aware of and encourage you to attend or to submit your comments via email: Ordinance Committee - Tuesday, July 14th at 5:30pm at City Hall The City Council is considering a long-overdue increase in the “Incentive Zoning Ordinance” that requires large commercial developers in Cambridge to contribute to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The proposal currently before the council would increase the fee annually over the next three years from $10 to $12 per square foot of development, with the requirement for a new study to examine the impact of the fee in three years. A Better Cambridge supports this proposal and agrees with the author of a recent study commissioned by the City which indicates greater increases in the fee would hamper commercial development and result in less money overall for the affordable housing trust fund.Please contact the Ordinance Committee by emailing [email protected] with a copy to the city clerk at [email protected] Planning Board - Tuesday, July 14th at 7:00pm at City Hall Annex (344 Broadway, 2nd Floor) The Planning Board is currently reviewing proposed zoning for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe site in Kendall Square. The Federal Government has indicated their plans to select a developer to rebuild the DOT building, and add additional uses (i.e., residential, commercial, or open space) on this large site. A Better Cambridge supports rezoning the site to encourage a vibrant, mixed use development with a particular emphasis on affordable low- and middle-income housing. As we recently saw with the the Mass & Main zoning in Central Square, substantial increases in density and height are necessary to achieve the greatest amount of affordable, family housing. ABC encourages the Planning Board to adopt zoning with density and height allowances necessary to create a greater percentage of affordable housing.Please contact the Planning Board by emailing [email protected] who will pass your comments on to the board members.
Summer is here and school is coming to an end, but important initiatives for the future of Cambridge are in full swing. Below please find the June ABC Newsletter. DEVELOPMENT UPDATES The City Council has begun the discussion of zoning changes regarding the Volpe Center in Kendall Square. This site has huge potential for the city. There will be a public hearing with the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee on Monday, June 29th in the Sullivan Chamber.Cambridge ChronicleCity of Cambridge The City Manager submitted to the Council proposed changes to Incentive Zoning as a result of a "Nexus Study", examining the impact of development on the Cambridge housing market. If adopted by the Council, this will result in: More projects being required to contribute to the Affordable Housing Trust. Increasing the contribution rate to $12/square foot, with $1/square foot increases for the next three years. Creating a formal definition of middle income housing and clarifying that the Affordable Housing Trust can assist middle income housing. Indexing the contribution rate to inflation and requiring the City to review the rate every three years. City of Cambridge The three year master plan initiative is moving ahead as the City Council discusses the details of the project and searches for an outside consultant.Cambridge Chronicle UPCOMING EVENTS The next A Better Cambridge general meeting will take place on Tuesday, June 23rd at 7 pm. at the YWCA Board Room. The entrance is on Bishop Allen, past Temple Street. This Wednesday, June 17th the Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss new carsharing regulations.City of Cambridge The Cambridge Pedestrian Committee will host a summer stroll exploring North Point on Saturday, June 20th from 11 am to 12:30 pm.City of Cambridge On Thursday, June 25th at 7pm the Board of Zoning Appeals will take up plans by Harvard to remake the area of Harvard Square known as Holyoke Plaza. Visuals and descriptions of the plan can be found here:VisualsProposalThe annual City Dance Party will take place on Friday, June 26th from 7 pm to midnight in front of City Hall.City Dance Party LINKS OF INTEREST NIMBYism Is a Huge Drag on America’s Economic Growth Newcomers Outpace New Housing in Least Affordable Rental Markets More Affordable Housing – Not a Housing Moratorium – In San Francisco How Big Cities That Restrict New Housing Harm the Economy DID YOU KNOW? Between 1980 and 2010, increases in housing stock and population in Cambridge were primarily confined to Riverside, Cambridgeport, and East Cambridge.