ACTION ALERT: The rent and the temperature are too damn high!

(Sent on Sunday, July 24, 2022.)

Cambridge needs to build less parking, and build more affordable housing. You can help us get there.

This week, you can take action to fight our climate crisis and our housing crisis. The City’s Ordinance Committee – consisting of all nine City Councilors – will meet on Wednesday, July 27 to discuss raising the linkage fee on commercial development to fund affordable housing. One week later, on August 3, the Ordinance Committee will meet to discuss removing parking requirements from our zoning code. The City Council needs to hear your support for these proposals.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 27, 5:30PM - the Ordinance Committee will meet to discuss taxing commercial development to raise money for permanently affordable housing.

How you can help: Tell the City Council you want to see a higher linkage fee of $33/sqft to invest in affordable housing! Email [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected], by the end of the day on Monday, 7/25. Ask the Ordinance Committee to forward an increase in the linkage fee back to the full City Council with a positive recommendation, and say that you support speedy adoption of the order.

You don’t need to write a policy paper in your email – just saying that you care about funding affordable housing is enough! What would more affordable housing mean to you and your neighbors? However, you can feel free to adopt the points below:

  • Lab and office developments increase demand for housing, driving up rents and land prices. Despite this, they contribute less financial support to affordable housing than new housing development does.
  • Kendall Square office space is one of the most desirable markets for commercial real estate in the country. (It is competitive with prices in downtown Manhattan!)
  • Increasing the linkage fee from $20/sqft to $33/sqft would likely generate $40 million for affordable housing over the next three fiscal years. ($33/sqft is the maximum linkage fee legally allowed by Cambridge’s 2019 nexus study.)
  • If we had made such an increase in June 2020, we would have already produced an extra $30 million for affordable housing by now.
  • This move would increase costs for commercial tenants of new buildings by only about 2%.

At Wednesday's hearing, there may be discussion of amendments to minimize the impact of this fee on small retail stores and restaurants. We do not oppose such changes so long as the amendment process does not delay or diminish the overall fee increase.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3, 5:30PM - the Ordinance Committee will meet to discuss removing parking minimums from our zoning code

How you can help: Tell City Council you support ending parking requirements across Cambridge! Email [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected], by the end of the day on Monday, 8/1. Ask the Ordinance Committee to forward the zoning petition back to the City Council with a positive recommendation, and say that you support its speedy adoption.

Just like above, your personal story is just as important as detailed policy analysis. How have you been impacted by the climate crisis? Does the parking mandate stop you from using your space creatively? What does “people over parking” mean to you?

Here are some helpful facts to mull over:

  • Cambridge currently requires one off-street parking space for every new unit of housing, even though 33% of Cambridge households don’t own a car. Only half of households with lower incomes or renters own a car – less than the city-wide average.
  • Ending parking minimums would not forbid parking in new housing. Instead, it would give homebuilders the flexibility to create homes for people with different parking needs.
  • A 2017 peer reviewed study estimated that parking requirements in the US increase rents by 17% and that carless renters waste $440 million a year on parking.
  • Mandated parking incentivizes driving and car ownership. A study from San Francisco found that mandated parking induced a large proportion of households to buy a car, thus increasing traffic and pollution.
  • At a Transportation Committee meeting in April, councilors discussed how removing parking mandates will allow businesses and homeowners to use existing parking more efficiently. Right now, a property owner needs to keep their parking available to conform with zoning, even if they have more spaces than they need! Once we remove these rules, you could agree to let your neighbors or nearby businesses use your extra space.

Feel free to reply to this email if you have any questions or want to get more involved in fighting our housing and climate crises. And go ahead and forward to friends and neighbors who would be interested – the more of us speak up, the clearer we’re heard.