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.

Now without further ado, here’s the news.

Thank you,

Allan Sadun, A Better Cambridge

February Spotlight: the Affordable Housing Overlay is back! 

The 100% Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay has been re-introduced by Councillors McGovern, Simmons, Sobrinho-Wheeler, and Toomey, marking the start of another push to get this critical measure passed. The Overlay would allow more affordable housing to be built in every neighborhood of Cambridge (read more here and here) - we will need your help to get it over the finish line in the coming months. Stay tuned!

Around Town

  • On the linkage fee: a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came out or wrote in support of raising the affordable housing linkage fee for commercial development! At the February 12th Ordinance Committee meeting, the councillors voted unanimously to increase the interim linkage fee proposal from $19.10/sqft to $20.10/sqft, and promised swift action soon to determine a higher permanent linkage fee proposal. We will continue to watch this issue closely.
  • The East Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District study continues to be a risk to development in East Cambridge. Pro-housing residents of East Cambridge and adjacent neighborhoods are gathering at the study committee’s Monday, March 2nd meeting, where goals and objectives will be discussed. They will be advocating for outcomes that avoid placing unnecessary burdens on growth and renovations, as those restrictions could decrease affordability and exacerbate our housing crisis. More details to come in an email later this week.
  • A zoning petition to allow four or more unrelated individuals to live together was filed by ABC steering committee member Chris Schmidt. Its Planning Board hearing is on March 10th and its Ordinance Committee hearing is on March 17th. Groups of four or more unrelated people living together is widespread in Cambridge, and often the only way they can afford housing, but technically illegal, leading some landlords to pressure tenants to lease informally.

ABC Announcements

  • Book Club: We had a great discussion of Generation Priced Out last week! In March, we will be reading and discussing the Cambridge Tenant Displacement Task Force final report and recommendations. If you are not yet part of our book club but are interested, fill out this Doodle to help us schedule, and respond to this email so we can send you the finalized date.
  • We will be having a Members’ Meeting on Wednesday, March 25th. Save the date, stay tuned for an invitation, and if you haven’t renewed your membership in 2020, join today!
  • Affordable housing history: ABC is hosting Dr. Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard professor and author of Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age, for a lecture and discussion at 6:30pm on Wednesday, April 1st. RSVP here.

Other Housing News

  • Newton residents will vote on a mixed-use development on Tuesday, March 3rd, thanks to a referendum campaign by NIMBYs. Please tell all your Newton friends to vote YES for Newton’s future.
  • “Build Build Build”: The New York Times had an excellent article about a housing fight in suburban California recently, recommended by Barack Obama! They link to us, too, although they do refer to Cambridge as “Boston”.
  • Abundant Housing Massachusetts, a statewide pro-housing organization, is forming and will be officially launching soon. Check them out and subscribe to their mailing list here.
  • California SB 50, a transit-oriented upzoning bill, has failed to pass, largely due to opposition from Los Angeles legislators. However, Nebraska’s LB 794, a more modest bill to legalize missing middle housing in cities, seems to have brighter prospects. Fingers crossed!