(Sent on Friday, January 17, 2020.) We’d like to catch you up on what’s happened since last November, when Cambridge elected a new City Council with a super-majority of pro-housing councillors. (See our sister organization’s blog post for more statistics about the election.) This month, we’re celebrating Cambridge’s inauguration of that council, and we’re excited about the possibilities the coming term will bring. Continue reading
A Better Cambridge supports the CambridgeSide redevelopment project that City Council approved in December. With 175,000 square feet of planned residential development, 65 percent of which will be low- or middle-income affordable housing, the project will add much-needed homes to our city. Moreover, it will contribute $7 million to the Affordable Housing Trust. Our organization recognizes that the changing retail landscape threatened the future of the mall, making redevelopment necessary to save it and retain its diversity of shopping options. Community benefits, such as the revitalization of the First Street corridor, a $9 million contribution to the East End House, and $1.3 million for the East Cambridge Scholarship Fund, further make it a valuable project. As the project moves forward and permits are issued, the city needs to ensure that the housing component of the project doesn’t trail the commercial piece. The city should also push New England Development to produce as many units of housing as possible. A Better Cambridge shares concerns that others have expressed regarding displacement pressures additional commercial development will cause in East Cambridge. Although 175,000 square feet of housing will be produced, new high-paid workers in the project's 400,000 square feet of office and lab space will put further upward pressure on area rents and home prices. To prevent the displacement of long-time residents and accommodate and welcome new workers who want to live in Cambridge, the City should loosen zoning restrictions that stifle the building of new homes, while also increasing linkage fees and taking other steps to incentivize housing production. Tenant protections must also be put in place to mitigate the impact of this development.
A Better Cambridge's Testimony on Tenant Protection Legislation Delivered before the Joint Committee on Housing on January 14, 2020 Chairman Honan, Chairman Crighton, members of the Committee-- My name is Rebecca Schofield, and I am here on behalf of A Better Cambridge, an all-volunteer organization that believes for Cambridge to continue to live up to its promise, we must solve our housing affordability crisis. The solution has to involve producing more housing, especially affordable housing, in Cambridge and elsewhere to meet the critical regional demand. But it also requires protecting tenants from the immediate effects of this crisis. Continue reading
At the City Council meeting on September 9, the proposed 100% Affordable Housing Overlay was tabled; while the proposal had majority support, it did not have the support of the necessary 6 Councilors to pass through the City Council. Based on the votes to pass the proposal out of the Ordinance Committee, Councilors McGovern, Mallon, Siddiqui, Simmons, and Toomey supported the Overlay. Councilors Devereux, Carlone, Kelley, and Zondervan did not support it. The proposed 100% Affordable Housing Overlay was a zoning change that would have made it easier for new affordable housing developments to proceed in every neighborhood in our city; it would have lowered costs for affordable housing partners and tangibly increased the number of affordable homes created. A Better Cambridge was a strong supporter of the Affordable Housing Overlay, and called for it to be paired with increased funding for affordable housing. We believe that increased affordable housing production is a critical need for the city. Sadly, with the current council, it seems that some Councilors are unwilling to make the necessary tradeoffs in order to support affordable housing. We want to thank the councilors who have worked so hard to pass the overlay this year—Mayor McGovern, and Councilors Mallon, Siddiqui, Simmons, and Toomey—and we look forward to seeing this zoning change return in the future as we continue to work to improve access to affordable housing in Cambridge. Today (September 11), A Better Cambridge is hosting a Candidate Forum where we will hear from 18 City Council candidates, including eight incumbents, about what they would do to address our housing affordability crisis. Please join us at the Main Branch of the Cambridge Public Library at 6 p.m. to hear their ideas about how to move forward.
By Dan Eisner The housing crisis affects everybody who lives in Cambridge, but nobody feels the pain like renters. Significant rent hikes, leases not being renewed, and evictions all weigh on the minds of people who didn’t have the good fortune to buy a home here before prices began to soar earlier this decade. Homeowners are shielded from this pain. Year after year, they know how much their mortgage payments will be and don’t need to worry about being priced out of the city they love. Meanwhile, they gain wealth as their property values increase dramatically. Some of these homeowners vote in City Council elections for candidates who will protect their interests and fight the creation of new homes. The preferences of homeowners are reflected in the makeup of our current Council: while 65% of the Cambridge population are renters, eight of our nine councilors are homeowners. This underrepresentation helps to explain policies that are, at best, indifferent to renters. Our zoning code remains stuck in a previous era, when the demand for housing was much lower. Now, as people flock to Cambridge for its jobs, walkability, and diversity, the City has a responsibility to reform its zoning to make it possible to build homes for them, while ensuring that strong protections are in place to minimize negative effects on current tenants. But some of our current Councilors are unwilling to make these changes. As a result, Cambridge has become too expensive for all but the wealthiest earners. Renters matter. They deserve to have their voices heard. We must elect city council candidates who understand this and will enact policies that ease the burden on the people who make this city so vibrant and dynamic. Last week, as I was helping register voters through ABC’s Renters Matter registration drive, I asked a passerby if he was a Cambridge resident. He responded, “No, it’s too expensive here!” His gallows humor made me laugh, but it was sad: the massive demand for housing has driven out too many of our friends and neighbors over the years. Fortunately, our housing crisis can be solved: with a combination of increased production and tenant protections, we can create a path to a better Cambridge. Join us at the ABC Candidate Forum on Wednesday to hear what candidates for City Council think we should do to tackle the housing crisis that residents of our city are facing.
On Tuesday, May 22nd A Better Cambridge welcomed Richard Rothstein to Cambridge. Rothstein's work, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, explores the myth that America's cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation--that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation--the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments--that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day. Following his presentation Rothstein participated in a panel alongside Chrystal Kornegay, CEO of MassHousing; Dr. Atyia Martin, former Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Boston; and David Harris, former Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston. The panel was moderated by Boston Globe columnist Dante Ramos. Thank you to Cambridge Community Television for filming and live-streaming this event. And thank you to Adriane Musgrave and Pamela Thilo for making this event happen.
Dear Members, Over the past few years, we’ve grown significantly as an organization. Thanks to you, our numbers have increased along with our influence. Together, we've successfully advocated for the Mass and Main development and the Central Square Restoration Petition -- both of which have potential to add thousands of much-needed mixed-income housing units to Central Square, we defended and promoted Frost Terrace, smoothing the way for 40 new affordable units, we've hosted countless educational forums and social events, creating alliances with other like-minded organizations in the state and nationally, and will be a host of the third annual international YIMBYtown conference in September. We've had several looks and logos over the past six years, but none of them were ever reflective of who we are as an organization. As we've grown from an informal group of like-minded neighbors to an incorporated organization with over 200 paid members, 1200 subscribers, and with a national reputation, we realized it was time to create an identity that truly illustrates who we are. Today we are proud to unveil our new brand identity. The new identity is the culmination of months of interviews and introspection with many of you about the essence of ABC. The goal was to discuss not just our mission, but our character as an organization. We held focus groups with both new and long term members, as well as key community stakeholders, elected officials, and City Council candidates. In those interviews, we kept hearing some key themes which the new identity aims to embody. Community is at the heart of everything ABC is about. We strive to create affordable communities in which people can live and thrive. We also aim for ABC as an organization to become a community. We connect to one another in our neighborhoods, through social events, and in our shared commitment. We want to foster discussion, openness, and approachability. We are pragmatic and fact-based. We understand that the housing affordability crisis is an emotional issue, as it touches on people’s livelihoods, homes and communities. Our goal is to be the voice of reason in what are sometimes fear-based discussions. ABC upholds the data-driven arguments that more housing also enables more affordable housing. We recognize that these are complex arguments, and our hope is to help simplify them. We are modern and embrace change. For Cambridge to face the affordability, social and environmental challenges head on, we need to welcome change. The new brand identity lays the foundation for some of the work we have ahead of us. One thing that we heard from you during the January membership meeting is that we need to do more to educate both members and non members alike about housing related issues. I couldn’t agree with you more! We also want to help create sustainable growth housing policies, build our membership, organize educational and social events...In all there’s a lot of exciting work to do and we’d love you to become a part of it and help shape the future of ABC. We welcome all volunteers - no matter how big or small your time commitment. To express interest, please complete this form and we will be in touch. I also want to say a big thank you to the volunteers who were part of the brand identity team. Thank you Eugenia Huh, Bret Matthew, Margo Sulmont, Ortal Ullman, and Rhoda Ullmann. And a thank you to our designer, Gary Pikovsky for the new design. We hope you like our new look!
Thanks to everyone who has already responded to my email from Wednesday about the proposed Alewife moratorium. Our emails to the city council have been effective in highlighting the community opposition to this bad idea and it seems that the residents who promote this moratorium have backed off temporarily. Despite weeks of planning and collecting signatures on an online petition, no policy order, zoning petition, or other legislative action referring to an Alewife moratorium appear on Monday's city council agenda. Given that the council will not formally consider the moratorium on Monday, we don't need a full-court press of ABC members and supporters to show up to the city council meeting. If you have the time Monday it may be good to have a few of our folks there to oppose any late policy order, but in that case I don't suspect the council will vote on the item this week. This is probably just a temporary reprieve and concerted action from ABC will likely be needed to oppose an Alewife moratorium very soon. Emails from ABC supporters to the council about our opposition to a moratorium may still be useful at this time to let the council know we are monitoring this issue. Finally, while Alewife is on our mind don't forget that ABC is heading to Bertucci's at Alewife Station for our next Strictly Social Meet-Up this Wednesday, April 4th. Please visit our website or Facebook event to RSVP for some good conversations with great folks over pizza and beer! Thanks again for taking action so quickly to help build a better Cambridge.
It’s been a week since the Cambridge City Council election, and on behalf of the ABC board of directors I wanted to send a sincere thank you for all your engagement over these past months. We all have worked hard to ensure that Cambridge is ready for the challenges and opportunities ahead, and ABC continues to grow and become an important part of our broader civic dialogue. This is because of your participation and your commitment.We are thrilled with the election results. Three of our endorsed candidates won seats on the council including incumbent councillors Denise Simmons and Marc McGovern, as well as new councillor-elect Alanna Mallon! Along with the re-elected Tim Toomey & Craig Kelley who have both been supportive of ABC's pro-housing priorities in the past, I'm pleased that we retain a pro-housing majority on the next city council!I also want to take a moment to recognize Sean Tierney, Samuel Gebru, and Adriane Musgrave - our other endorsees who unfortunately did not gain seats on the council this time around. All three ran incredibly strong campaigns that focused on positive, inclusive visions for Cambridge's future. They have each demonstrated unwavering commitment to our community, and I'm confident they'll remain leaders in our community for years to come.Post-elections are also times to come together. While we didn’t agree with all 26 candidates on our key issues like housing and sustainable growth, we nevertheless wish all the councillors well as they embark on their important work. We congratulate and look forward to working on the issues we all care so much about with councillors-elect Sumbul Siddiqui and Quinton Zondervan, plus returning councillors Dennis Carlone and Jan Devereux.We at ABC thank you for all you’ve done to make our community a better one. We are very grateful to live in such a vibrant and dynamic community as this, and in that spirit, we wish you the very best as we enter this holiday time of year. 2017 Election Archive: Click here to read about our 2017 City Council candidate endorsements Click here to review our 2017 City Council candidate ratings
Today is election day in Cambridge and we're at crossroads. ABC believes that, in a progressive community like Cambridge we must work to create more homes for all our families. However, some candidates believe that Cambridge is full and oppose the creation of sustainable, mixed-income homes in our community.ABC is proud to endorse six bold, progressive candidates who understand that increasing housing for all is crucial to racial justice and environmental sustainability. We encourage you to rank them 1-6 in any order Don't know where to vote? Visit http://www.wheredoivotema.com to find your voting location. Polls are open from 7am to 8pm.We need your vote to elect a City Council says YES to housing for all families. From left to right: Samuel Gebru, Adriane Musgrave, Sean Tierney, E. Denise Simmons, Marc McGovern, and Alanna Mallon. Marc McGovern (incumbent) is a stalwart when it comes to fighting for affordable housing. He led the way on increasing the percentage of affordable units provided and amount of money paid to the city by developers. As a social worker, he takes a holistic approach to the issues affecting the most vulnerable in our city and has a rare talent for bringing opposing stakeholders together to create progress. Denise Simmons (incumbent) may be famous for being the nation’s first black, openly lesbian mayor, but here in Cambridge, residents know her to be among the most effective and accessible leaders in the city. She’s fought to preserve and expand the city's stock of affordable housing, and is a tireless advocate for environmental, public safety, and diversity issues. Adriane Musgrave left her management consulting job to run for city council full-time. She has put her remarkable analytical, report-reading and data-mining skills to good use in understanding seemingly every problem that Cambridge faces. Her passions are smart zoning and development, and creating inclusive prosperity for all. Sean Tierney, a Cambridge native and attorney who works on tax and housing policy for the state legislature, offers an important perspective on the housing crisis. He is dedicated to finding innovative solutions that balance growth and increased density, while fighting the displacement that threatens Cambridge’s economic, racial, and cultural diversity. Alanna Mallon has already made Cambridge a better place by creating the Weekend Backpack Program, which ensures access to meals for our food insecure students. She has immense talent for spotting problems, creating the structures needed to address them, and coordinating existing solutions to better serve our most at-risk neighbors. Samuel Gebru is an Ethiopian native and 2009 CRLS graduate. Despite being among the youngest candidates running for city council, he has an extensive record of leadership in community organizing, policy work, and advocacy. His commitment is to preserving and expanding housing opportunities for residents of all incomes and creating ownership units for low-income residents to build pathways to wealth and equity. These extraordinary candidates have earned ABC’s support because they understand the housing crisis and other issues facing Cambridge, have tangible ideas for addressing them, and the records to prove that they know how to be effective. Many candidates say the right things; ABC knows these candidates will do the right things. The all-volunteer ABC election committee compiled these endorsements based on candidate responses to the questionnaire, performance at our candidate forum, stated positions, past work on issues, and clarifying interviews where necessary. Of the 26 candidates running for city council 20 responded to our questionnaire and 22 attended the forum. We thank all the candidates for their time and participation. Click here to view our full rating of all 20 candidates that responded to our candidate survey The members of the Elections Committee gave countless hours in the weeks leading up the selection of our endorsees. It was not an easy process, due to the number of qualified candidates and our commitment to keep the group small to effectively use our limited resources.