Re: 2072 Mass Ave (BZA-017326-2020) – Letter of Support
Dear Members of the Board of Zoning Appeal,
A Better Cambridge (“ABC”) wholeheartedly supports the proposed 100% affordable housing development at 2072 Massachusetts Avenue near Porter Square in Cambridge; we hope that the BZA will agree and approve this valuable project.
Like many other communities in the Boston metro area, Cambridge has become increasingly unaffordable for low- and middle-income individuals and families alike over the prior two decades. As both rents and sale prices continue to escalate, we see more and more people forced to leave a community they have called home. There are over 20,000 unique names on Cambridge Housing Authority waiting lists; there is a massive need for affordable housing in Cambridge. As a housing advocacy nonprofit, ABC is working with elected officials, community members, and local developers to offset displacement in this tight housing market.
The proposed development at 2072 Massachusetts Avenue is part of this collective effort to build more affordable housing in the City. Brought forward by Capstone Communities LLC (Sean Hope and Jason Korb), this 49-unit rental project sits on an underutilized lot within 0.25 miles from the Porter Square T station. Not only will the new construction add important new units to Cambridge’s housing inventory in this high-cost Porter Square neighborhood, but the site is also located close to several essential community and retail services, as well as green spaces and parks. We’re excited that this family housing would provide so many residents with a close connection to neighborhood parks, schools, and other community spaces.
Although Cambridge very recently passed an Affordable Housing Overlay that will enable denser development of 100% affordable housing going forward, Capstone’s pursuit of additional density at this very transit-oriented location is reasonable - we’re excited about the design and use of this corner lot to provide much-needed housing. The 2072 Mass Ave development will provide residents with ready access to grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential services without reliance on an automobile. Since the initial proposal in October, Capstone has also been very receptive of community feedback on project design. They reduced the first floor area to allow for the widening of the Walden St. sidewalk, as well as a step-down in building height towards their Walden St. neighbors.
A Better Cambridge, an all-volunteer run non-profit advocating for more housing for all in Cambridge, has been active in local housing discussions since its founding in 2012. With 100+ members and a 1000+ network, ABC has been and continues to be a constructive voice in local debates. We consistently urge the creation of more housing for all as a crucial strategy for ensuring we have sufficient housing stock to meet the urgent and ever-increasing need.
ABC is supportive of the following components of the 2072 Mass Ave project:
The creation of 49 units of rental housing, which will be 100% affordable in perpetuity.
The majority of the units are family-sized (21 two-bedroom units and 13 three bed-room units), responding to the neighborhood and City’s priorities for more family housing.
The building will be Passive House-certified, setting a high bar for sustainable construction. This approach will increase resident comfort and reduce the development’s carbon footprint for the long-term.
The project will manage all stormwater retention on site, meeting local requirements for minimal environmental impact.
The project includes three handicapped parking spaces, ensuring accessibility and meeting all relevant MAAB code requirements.
Public discussion about the 2072 Mass Ave development has recently become focused on the question of parking. Vehicle ownership in Cambridge has been declining in recent years, and there is a growing consensus amongst urban planners nationwide that most American cities, including Cambridge, have overbuilt their car infrastructure at the cost of decreased air quality, decreased walkability, underutilized land, and increased carbon emissions. To correct these trends, ABC believes it is important not to build excess parking unless there is clear and needed demand for it. In the vicinity of 2072 Mass Ave, a major urban corridor with frequent bus service, there are two subway stations, as well as ample available on-street residential parking. ABC strongly believes that the three additional parking spaces provided by the project are more than enough.
Not only does A Better Cambridge strongly support the 2072 Massachusetts Avenue development, but we also believe it meets many of the City and State’s funding priorities for affordable housing in high-cost municipalities. We hope that the BZA will support the next steps in its development.
A Better Cambridge (ABC) Leadership