(Sent on June 8th, 2020.) Black lives matter. The horrific murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people have shown once again how deeply rooted racism is in the United States. For centuries, our institutions have cast Black Americans as second-class citizens who are not afforded the same rights and opportunities as their fellow citizens. It's a plague that not only afflicts the criminal justice system, but all areas of society. We hope the inspiring protests we've seen across the country will finally force our elected leaders to take the necessary steps to end police brutality and begin to reverse the pernicious effects of systemic racism. Continue reading
(Sent on Tuesday, February 25th, 2020.) While the big news this month is the renewed fight to pass the Affordable Housing Overlay, there’s a lot on the horizon - from more educational events, to neighborhood conservation discussions, to a potential rezoning in Central Square. If you are interested in helping us organize, please join A Better Cambridge as a member today. Continue reading
(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.