ABC August News: Upcoming walking tour, AHO, Portland, & more

(Sent on August 21st, 2020.)

On Saturday, September 12th, at 2pm, we will be having a Pro-Housing Walking Tour of Cambridgeport and Riverside neighborhoods. We’ll explore the built environment and talk about the history of housing construction in the area. RSVP here -- for safety, we are limiting the size of the group and requiring masks for all attendees. We hope you can join us!

Good news locally for affordable housing...

  • The Affordable Housing Overlay (2020 version) moved forward after a full evening of (largely supportive) public comment July 8th, a favorable August 4th recommendation from the Planning Board, and a shorter-than-expected ordeal before the Ordinance Committee on August 19th.

    At that meeting, only one amendment (favoring ground-floor retail in commercial districts) passed, while others (a middle-income housing requirement, stricter post-implementation review requirements, and stricter facade design requirements) failed. The favorable recommendation from the Committee had 6 councilors in favor, 1 opposed (Carlone), 1 “present” (Nolan), and 1 absent.

    The zoning reform next goes before the full Council on September 14th, when it is expected to be voted on to a second reading. The second reading will likely occur on October 5th, when it will need 6 votes to take effect. A huge thank you to all the councilors who have supported it this far, and to everyone who has spoken up for it along the way! We’re counting down the days until the finish line. 

  • Just-A-Start Corporation received approvals from both the Planning Board and the BZA for 101 new units of affordable housing to be built in the parking lot of their existing apartment building near Alewife Station.

    The planned 5-year, 2-phase Rindge Commons project will construct two buildings, 4-6 stories, which will also include space for JAS job training programs and Cambridge School Department pre-K classrooms.  The project will increase the number of apartments on the site by 37% -- including the site’s first 3-bedroom units -- while reducing parking capacity by about 20%.

    After the Planning Board gave a favorable recommendation by a 7-1 vote, the Board of Zoning Appeals voted 4-0 (with 1 abstention) to grant a comprehensive permit, allowing the project to move on toward construction. 

Beyond Cambridge...

  • After extensive debate, Portland, Oregon passed the Residential Infill Project, described as the “most pro-housing reform to low-density zones in US history”. The city council approved zoning changes that will allow four-unit buildings anywhere in the city -- and six units if half of them are affordable. Parking minimums have been removed from a majority of the city and floor-area ratios increased.

    An especially encouraging aspect is that, during 6 years of discussion, the proposal gained support as its scope became broader and more ambitious.

  • The Boston Globe has a new Ideas piece out today: “Housing will test white support for Black lives”. ABC founder Jesse Kanson-Benanav is quoted, as well as former City Council candidate Adriane Musgrave and board members of Abundant Housing Massachusetts. Check it out!

  • The President put aside his dog whistle and took up a bullhorn to announce his rollback of the Obama-era Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. AFFH helped to combat segregation and enforce the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and is just one of many housing policies at stake in this November’s election. Read YIMBY Action’s unpacking of Trump’s racist tweets, and of Biden’s housing platform, here.

  • The Massachusetts state primary election is coming up on September 1st, and the general election will happen on November 3rd. Cambridge has opened a ballot drop box for mail-in ballots at 51 Inman St. Whether you vote by mail, or vote in person early, or vote on election day, please VOTE!