ABC News, Nov 2022: Housing and climate policy, AHO improvements, and more

(Sent on Monday, Nov 28.) ABC is presenting “Housing Policy is Climate Policy,” a virtual talk with Q+A, on Wednesday, December 7, at 7pm. Anna Zetkulic of the Rocky Mountain Institute will discuss how changing zoning laws to allow mixed-income housing in higher-income, urban, walkable neighborhoods can improve climate and equity. Register here to receive the Zoom link. Continue reading

Affordable Housing Overlay improvements

(Sent Nov 20, 2022.) Several years ago, ABC successfully fought for passage of an Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO) in Cambridge. We knew that this zoning change alone wouldn't solve our long-standing housing shortage, but we also knew that creating a streamlined process with relaxed dimensional standards for 100% affordable housing developments could make a big difference. It is an idea that has been recognized nationally and adopted in other cities. We’re happy that the AHO’s first two years have seen six sites applying for AHO permits, with four completing their review requirements, for a potential total of over 400 new affordable homes. Even many who opposed it at the time now applaud it today. The City Council is now weighing revisions to the zoning code to strengthen and expand the 2020 AHO. Councilors Azeem, McGovern, Simmons and Zondervan have proposed changes that would allow: Continue reading

Housing Policy is Climate Policy: Zoom Webinar

Please join us on Wednesday, December 7th at 7:00 PM on Zoom for “Housing Policy is Climate Policy”.  Continue reading

How you can help build a better Cambridge

We don’t know what the results of today’s midterm elections will be (please vote if you haven’t!), and that makes us nervous for our country. But we know that no matter what happens at the federal or state level, local government in Cambridge has the power to make a profound difference in people’s lives through improvements in housing, transportation, and many other areas. And we hope that you know that by organizing and advocating for a vision of abundant, affordable, stable, and sustainable housing for all, you have the power to make Cambridge a better, more diverse, more vibrant, and more equitable city. We wanted to take a moment to spell out four key ways that you can help. And please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to discuss with us your particular situation so we can find out what the best fit for you might be! Continue reading

ABC News, Oct 2022: zoning progress, BZA vacancies, upcoming events, and more

(Sent on Friday, October 28.) This week, the Council ended all city requirements that new buildings must include parking spaces. New developments will no longer have to set aside space for driveways and car storage; homeowners may now use existing parking areas for other purposes. Builders may still include parking in their projects, but it’s now optional. All six of the ABC-supported Councilors (Azeem, Mallon, McGovern, Siddiqui, Simmons, Toner), joined by two more (Nolan, Zondervan), voted to prioritize housing over parking, making Cambridge the first city in Massachusetts to take this step. Meanwhile, an anonymous group is aiming to collect 8,396 signatures in 20 days in an effort to undo the Council’s action by referendum. The Council has also approved a substantial jump in the “linkage fee” paid by large commercial developments to help fund affordable housing construction. While the 66% increase is the largest in recent years and will raise tens of millions of dollars for affordable housing, it could have raised even more if not for a pair of loopholes that came with it. Previous fee increases have adjusted only the overall rate but this one adds a partial exemption for small projects and another that reduces the fee when parts of an existing building are demolished.   Continue reading

Housing Victory: Cambridge Removes Costly Parking Requirements

We are excited to share a pro-housing victory: the Cambridge City Council voted on Monday night to remove minimum parking requirements citywide! Continue reading

Affordable housing partial victory on linkage fee

(Sent Tuesday, October 18th, 2022.) Last night, the Cambridge City Council finally ordained into law an increase in the city's "linkage fee" - a fee that developers of commercial buildings like labs and office buildings pay into the city's Affordable Housing Trust to partially compensate for the impact that new jobs have on our affordable housing crisis. The fee was previously approximately $20/sqft; now it is $33/sqft. Continue reading

Openings on Board of Zoning Appeals

Cambridge’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) could play an important role in addressing the housing crisis because they can grant Comprehensive Permits for affordable housing under Mass 40B, as well as approving variances under our own zoning code. However, the BZA has rejected some housing developments by adding their personal criteria to the legal standards for approval. For example, when an affordable housing developer tried to build 49 below-market-rate units at 2072 Massachusetts Avenue, even a super-majority of City Councilors in support could not stop the BZA from repeatedly rejecting alternative proposals that sought to meet the members’ own more stringent requirements. Continue reading

Statement regarding linkage fee amendment

(Approved by the Board and sent on Sunday, October 16th, 2022.) Dear Cambridge City Councillors: Thank you for your work to raise the Incentive Zoning linkage fee to $33/sqft. Cambridge's shortage of affordable housing has left over 20,000 families struggling to get by. With residential developers being asked to contribute on the order of $100/sqft to affordable housing through our inclusionary zoning policy, asking commercial developers to contribute $33/sqft to partially mitigate the impact they have on our housing crisis is the least we can do. Continue reading

ABC News, Sept 2022: Last night’s City Council actions, upcoming events, and more

(Sent on October 4, 2022.) A proposal to stop mandating a parking spot for every new residence was passed to a second reading by the City Council last night on a 8-1 vote (Councilor Carlone opposed). The action, which could lead to final passage as early as October 17, occurred after two amendments passed – adding developer reporting of their parking decisions and a 3-year Community Development review. The Globe covered this zoning change, noting that many other cities have removed parking mandates, often driven by the widespread and growing housing shortage. Last week, a new California law ended parking minimums statewide for most developments near transit. “Housing solutions are also climate solutions,” CA Governor Newsom noted when he signed the bill. Continue reading