ABC News, Jan 2022: State legislative updates, “free” parking, and more

(Sent on Sunday, Jan 23.)

Please join ABC members for a status update this Wednesday (Jan 26) at 6:00pm. We’ll explain what's been going on lately at the City Council, talk about what ABC is organizing, and answer any questions anyone might have about ABC or current policy discussions. It’s open to the public, so please send the registration link to friends after you’ve signed up yourself!

The ABC Book Group will discuss the first half of Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking at 1:00pm on Saturday, February 26, at Darwin’s on Cambridge Street. Shoup knows more about parking and its effect on cities than just about anyone, and he can write, too! (“Minimum parking requirements act like a fertility drug for cars.”) For more information, please contact PJ Santos.

In the region…

  • You can hear from state legislative leaders about pending pro-housing bills at noon this Tuesday (Jan 25). Abundant Housing Massachusetts is organizing the briefing in support of their legislative policy agenda, and in particular H.1448/S.871 - a bill which sets a statewide housing production goal and enacts several provisions to help get there (full text). Register in advance here! 
  • A Better Cambridge is also supporting a group of statewide bills, including H.1378, which will allow cities and towns more options for adopting tenant protections.
  • Unsubsidized affordable housing – studio apartments that may rent at $650-850 a month – is now being built in Dorchester by a local couple. Their willingness and ability to do most of the construction themselves and a waiver of parking minimums through Boston’s Compact Living Pilot were key ingredients in this recipe. Everything had to line up just right to pull this off – including support from the neighbors! 

CHA Jefferson Park

CHA’s Margaret Moran notes that “As a society we use beauty as a signifier of value, and past winners have tended to be well-funded buildings for prestigious clients. This year, for the first time, public housing has been nominated.  Your vote for Jefferson Park […] says that beauty should belong to everyone.

  • A Harvard JCHS report, America’s Rental Housing 2022, finds that the pandemic’s second year brought sharply higher rents which, despite Federal emergency aid, left a substantial burden on many, especially lower-income households of color. Released last Friday at a streamed discussion, the report calls for a “permanent, fully funded housing safety net.”

...and at home

  • The Planning Board held two discussions in January in response to the City Council’s request for technical advice on allowing multi-family housing by-right in all neighborhoods, in line with the vision and values expressed by residents during the 3-year Envision process. While some Board members continue to drag their feet and argue that these changes shouldn’t happen, the discussions will continue and City staff hinted that they may present some more concrete options at the next one. (For more information, see ABC’s exclusionary zoning webpage.)
  • The Planning Board also had time to put up a roadblock in front of condo-unit owners who are trying to replace their 8-unit building on Harvard Street after a fire destroyed it 18 months ago. The owners’ association had planned a new 8-unit structure of about the same size and height, but shifted a little within the lot lines. Their request to the BZA for a necessary variance was pulled for additional review by the Planning Board, who sent to the BZA a complaint that the new design was… ”undistinguished.” 
  • The City Council’s Housing Committee – Simmons (chair), Azeem, Carlone, Mallon and McGovern – will meet this Tuesday at 4:00pm to hear updates from affordable housing developers (Cambridge Housing Authority, Just A Start, and Homeowners Rehab) on the work they’re doing and how it’s been affected by the pandemic.