ABC News, June 2022: Charter review, affordable housing hearings, parking survey, and more

(Sent Sunday, Jun 26, 2022.)

Our City Charter is about to undergo a once-every-10-year review. As a first step, a committee of Cambridge voters (no elected officials) is being formed to review the Charter, hold community forums, gather input from residents and make recommendations to the City Council. You can volunteer to potentially serve on this committee – the deadline is this Tuesday (June 28) at 11pm.

A similar (but separate) resident committee recently worked to narrow a pool of 30 City Manager candidates down to four finalists. From that list, the City Council has selected Yi-An Huang as the next Manager. Huang, a Cambridge resident who has held several management positions at Boston Medical Center, is expected to start in September. Like all of the finalists, Huang has expressed strong support for actions to address the effects of Cambridge’s housing crisis, especially regarding our shortage of affordable housing. What are your hopes for what the next City Manager will accomplish? Email us at [email protected]

The city is conducting a 15-month study to ensure that parking regulations align with the City’s goals for traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, climate resilience, housing, economic development and equity. Your input on parking and transportation in this 5-minute survey may help shape the resulting recommendations for potential parking changes scheduled to be drafted by this fall.

Hearings and events…

  • The Cambridge Historical Commission (CHC) is attempting to extend its interim restrictions on some changes to buildings in a portion of East Cambridge. Amid concerns about increasing housing costs and "neighborhood character," they've held meetings on imposing these limits permanently by establishing a Neighborhood Conservation District. CHC is now seeking support through a "postcard poll" of the affected area. If you live in East Cambridge and you're one of the people to whom CHC sent two mailings, the cover letter helpfully explains that you should return two poll responses.

Articles and reports

  •  The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies has just released its 2022 report on The State of the Nation’s Housing, which describes a housing crisis much like Cambridge’s but with larger numbers. Despite the pandemic, household growth has contributed to the rising demand for housing, while fewer existing homes were available for sale in January 2022 than at any point since the late 1990s. Rents climbed at record rates in late 2021 and early 2022, with a national vacancy rate at its lowest since 1984. House price appreciation is widening the wealth gap between homeowners and renters, as soaring housing costs are falling most heavily on renters, low-income households and households of color.
  • In “How Houston Moved 25,000 People From the Streets Into Homes of Their Own”, the New York Times profiles the city of Houston’s aggressive and successful “all-in on housing first” approach to homelessness.  One factor helping them succeed: a relatively low cost of housing (2-bedrooms for $1500/mo!) caused in part by unusually lax land use rules.

  • The Philadelphia City Council is considering a zoning change to allow more single-room-occupancy (SRO) housing – an inexpensive and once-plentiful housing type whose decline in the late 20th century is often linked with the rise of street homelessness. However, three district council members are reportedly attempting to carve out their neighborhoods – read more here.

  • CDD has prepared a new Cambridge Demographic Summary presentation, with breakdowns of Cambridge by race, income, family status, and more. One eye-popping figure (slide 37): over 50% of households overall have a combined income of over $125,000/year – but the same is true of less than 20% of Black households.