ABC Responds to Slate Article: 'San Francisco's Civil War'

A Better Cambridge (ABC) thanks Slate for the article they ran by Henry Grabar about the challenges of providing affordable housing in our most expensive cities.

While the article focused on San Francisco, it mentions Cambridge City Councillor Nadeem Mazen, who is quoted as saying,

“The housing advocates and especially young urban planners, like this organization here A Better Cambridge, say ‘Build it now,’ ” Mazen said, referring to the local YIMBY group. “The problem with ‘Build it now’ is what we’re building is luxury housing with a small modicum of affordable required. They say there’s a 30-year wait, wait 30 years and luxury income will become middle-income housing. We have to understand that the free market isn’t going to solve this problem. Twelve or 20 percent isn’t enough.”

Since Councillor Mazen mentioned us by name, we’d like to respond.

Cambridge, like San Francisco, is no stranger to strong debates over the best strategies to reduce the cost of housing, and specifically increase the supply of affordable housing. ABC's fundamental belief is that the best way to reduce the cost of housing in today’s environment is to build more housing. We are just as concerned with preventing displacement of our neighbors, as we are with reducing housing costs. We believe new luxury housing provides an immediate reduction in displacement. Every luxury unit that is occupied is occupied by someone with the means to pay more rent than the vast majority of our neighbors. To compound the problem, typically when a housing development becomes too burdensome to get approved, it is replaced with a lab or office development which brings that many more affluent housing seekers into our city, displacing even more residents.

We are focused on doing everything we can to bring housing costs down now. Our goal is to create an abundance of new homes in Cambridge and Metro Boston so people of all incomes can live in our city and region today.

Slate has done a good job of highlighting the challenges our communities face, and the difficult politics associated with the housing debates. A Better Cambridge stands ready, willing and able to fight for housing for people of all incomes, a most basic human need.

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  • Evita Vigante
    commented 2017-07-08 08:50:37 -0400
    Hi ABC :) I am a new worker in Cambridge on Cambridge Park Drive. I read the article and your response, and I agree that at this point any housing = good housing. I myself cannot afford to live in MA right now and commute from Milford NH (1.5 hr one way). Interestingly enough my father is a home builder in CT. He can afford to build 1-2 homes per year because so much of his money gets tied up in having to buy large building lots for the homes that he builds (usually 1-2 acres depending on zoning regulations). My dad is not rich, he is unable to save for retirement and is on state sponsored healthcare. So I see this problem becoming worse and worse right before my eyes… people like my dad not being able to afford to build smaller/denser homes for people who need it like me because of zoning policies. Councillor Mazen almost made a good point, but did not factor in that zoning policies are preventing the free market from correcting the problem. Keep up the good work ABC! I hope that the towns surrounding Cambridge will also start to pull their weight.