ABC News, May 2022: City Manager finalists, Alewife rezoning and more

(Sent Wednesday, May 25th.)

Four finalists for Cambridge’s next City Manager have been selected! The candidates – see their resumes and questionnaire responses here – will speak and answer questions at a Meet the Finalists forum next Tuesday, May 31. They will also be publicly interviewed by the City Council on Wednesday, June 1. 

As we stated in our February letter, it is critical that the next City Manager be a progressive, pro-housing, pro-renter leader. We’d love it if you took a minute to review our letter and email a suggested interview question for the finalists to the City’s search consultant at [email protected] (by noon this Thursday). 

If you attend the forum or the interviews, or just are interested, come discuss at the ABC Social on Thursday, June 2, 7-9 pm. Then you can email thoughts to the Council before they cast their votes for Manager at their June 6 meeting. 

In addition to the just-mentioned ABC Social on June 2 at Phoenix Landing, upcoming events include: 

  • a discussion of the Alewife District Report from the Envision Cambridge project, with an eye on the upcoming Council debate on rezoning the Alewife area, now mostly commercial and industrial. (Wednesday, June 8, 6pm, on Zoom).
  • an Abundant Housing Massachusetts happy hour in Fenway on Monday, June 13, 6pm, where you can meet pro-housing advocates from around the state. Free for AHMA members, $15 for guests.
  • a Tenant Rights and Resources Forum on Thursday, June 23, 7 pm, on Zoom. Susan Hegel (Housing Attorney, Greater Boston Legal Services),  Carolina Almonte (Attorney Investigator, Cambridge Human Rights Commission) and Maura Pensak (Cambridge Housing Liaison) will present and take questions on tenant rights, rent increases, evictions, housing discrimination and related topics. Save the date by registering here right now.


(Pictured here: Participants in ABC’s recent Pro-Housing Walking Tour of East Cambridge gathering in front of the residential building that set in motion a contentious process to establish an East Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District. The area has been under alteration restrictions since 2019, while a Cambridge Historical Commission study “assess[es] the character and history of the neighborhood [and] the development potential of each property under current regulatory conditions.”)


Scenes from the housing landscape

  • The Biden administration has announced a package of actions to ease steeply rising housing costs, including incentives for zoning reform and measures to improve financing of housing production and access. The statement notes that the national housing shortage – over 1.5 million homes nationwide – “burdens family budgets, drives up inflation, limits economic growth, maintains residential segregation, and exacerbates climate change.” Although this affects families of all incomes, it has had “a particular impact on low- and moderate-income families, and people and communities of color."
  • Hoping to influence the Biden administration’s guideline-drafting process, a recent CityLab article studies Minneapolis’ example and concludes that some kinds of zoning reforms are more effective than others. It notes that “eliminating single-family zoning isn’t enough if disgruntled neighbors can hold up construction on three-unit apartment buildings through months of public review.”
  • Recalling over a half century of open-housing efforts by state government that met with local resistance, an article in Commonwealth Magazine describes the outright defiance of the recent Housing Choice/MBTA Communities legislation by several cities and towns. The piece concludes with an Abundant Housing MA statement that “it is simply not acceptable for any community – particularly the most wealthy, racially segregated communities in our region, which perpetuate their own segregated demographics by limiting housing choices through exclusionary zoning schemes – to shirk their responsibility under this shared effort.”  
  • According to a recent NY Times report, the Federal Reserve has estimated that in just two years of pandemic, “Americans who own their homes have gained more than $6 trillion in housing wealth.” The Times notes that such a “mass wealth creation event [has] few precedents in American history,” while a Wharton professor has to reach back over a century to find a parallel situation. “The cumulative effects figure to be sweeping, and divergent…It will amplify inequality,” with gains going disproportionately to older white households.