ABC News, July 2022: parking, linkage fee, climbing rents and more

(Sent on Friday, July 29th, 2022.)

This week, the Ordinance Committee met to discuss increasing the linkage fee (paid by commercial developers to raise more funds for affordable housing) by more than 50%. The six committee members who were present expressed support for the increase, and heard additional support during public comment, but then tangled themselves up over possible tweaks and exemptions. They voted to kick the can down the road to an unspecified future Ordinance meeting, increasing the risk that they will fail to resolve issues before the legislation expires.

Next week, the Ordinance Committee will consider removing all off-street parking requirements from our zoning code at their next meeting (Wednesday, August 3, 5:30pm). Current parking requirements (see our one-pager or last week’s action alert) increase the costs of housing, lead to more traffic and pollution, and expand pavement at the expense of open space. You can help speak up for people over parking by emailing [email protected] and [email protected] by 5:00pm, Monday, August 1, asking the Committee to send a favorable recommendation to the City Council.

Although the Cambridge Historical Commission has been pushing hard for nearly three years to generate enthusiasm, their own recently-conducted poll results show CHC has failed to build support for a Neighborhood Conservation District in East Cambridge. Only 49% of voters supported the proposal (43% opposed; 8% not sure) despite the low-turnout, voluntary-response nature of the poll. Establishing the district will require approval from the City Council.

On another note (probably a flatted fifth), ABC members will be present throughout the Cambridge Jazz Festival this weekend (July 30-31) at Danehy Park, reaching out to the Cambridge community about housing and related issues. Hope you’ll stop by!

Housing failures and consequences

  • A national study has found that Massachusetts needs an additional 108,000 homes to meet demand, ranking the state as 11th in the nation in housing underproduction. Our shortfall has doubled between 2012 and 2019
  • The predictable results of that housing underproduction have been graphically documented by ABC member Danny Hidalgo. He dug into Census Bureau data and found that Cambridge rents have climbed 86% since 2005, while the median increase for the Greater Boston area was 54%. In 2005, our rents were similar to those in Somerville and Newton, but Cambridge’s rents are now highest in the state.
  • In a great piece of shoe-leather reporting, the Boston Globe put a human face on the confluence of our housing policies and transit policies. Read the story of the 52-year-old woman who spends 4 hours commuting from Ayer to spend 4 hours a night cleaning biotech labs in Kendall Square…and spends about a quarter of her net income on a commuter rail pass.
  • National media are reporting that the housing shortage is spreading to more parts of the country – not just on the coasts – and on the growing recognition of its connection to homelessness, so costly in many dimensions.

Upcoming events

  • Wednesday, August 3: Ordinance Committee hearing on parking minimums (see above) at 5:30pm
  • Thursday, August 4: Monthly ABC social at the Phoenix Landing, starting 7:00pm
  • Monday, August 8: Rescheduled ABC book club on “Fixer-Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Systems”, at the Phoenix Landing starting 7:00pm
  • Wednesday, August 10: The City’s Alewife Zoning Working Group will hold its second meeting. We expect it to be held at 6:00pm over Zoom and we expect more information to be posted closer to the meeting on the City Calendar.
  • Saturday, August 13: ABC will be having a member meeting (outdoors, in-person, starting 2:00pm) to discuss recent and future activities. Members, save the date and stay tuned for an invitation soon. Non-members, it’s a great day to join!