ABC September News: AHO, tenants’ rights, Porter Square project, & more

(Sent on September 25th, 2020.) On Monday, October 5th, the Cambridge City Council will cast its final vote on the Affordable Housing Overlay. We will send an email soon with further details, but mark your calendars now! The Overlay will make it feasible for desperately needed 100% affordable housing projects to be built in every neighborhood of the city, putting a dent in Cambridge’s legacy of de facto segregation.We are so grateful to everyone who has fought so hard to make the Overlay a reality. The more support and gratitude we can give Councilors for finally passing the Overlay, the more likely they are to continue to stand up to NIMBYs and champion pro-housing, pro-equity measures in the future. Continue reading

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! Continue reading

Black Lives Matter

(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

ABC February Newsletter: the Overlay, linkage fee results, and more

(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

ABC January Newsletter: Conservation District, new Council, and more

(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

ABC Statement on CambridgeSide upzoning

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.

Testimony on Tenant Protection Legislation

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

ABC Statement on Failure of Affordable Housing Overlay to Pass

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.

Renters Matter

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.

Watch ABC's discussion with "Color of Law' author Richard Rothstein and distinguished guests

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.