Starter Pack

For a fun flier summary of some of the highlights, see ABC's Essential Reading Suggestions 2021!

  • For an introduction to what we're fighting for, and why, start with this FAQ.

  • In this 5-minute video from May 21st, 2021, Senator Elizabeth Warren and HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge discuss how exclusionary zoning rules and "not in my backyard" attitudes drive up the cost of housing and keep people away from economic opportunities.

  • Harvard Law professor Niko Bowie summarizes the racist, exclusionary history of Cambridge zoning in this 10-minute video, delivered at a May 30th 2021 Planning Board meeting.

Readings about Housing Equity

  • "Stories of the Can't Wait List" (2021), by the Cambridge Housing Authority. The CHA has over 21,000 unique households across its waiting lists, and in order to call attention to the need for more affordable housing in Cambridge, it took the step of compiling stories and pictures from many of the people on its waiting lists, in order to put a face and voice to the numbers.

  • "Exclusionary Zoning: Its Effect on Racial Discrimination in the Housing Market" (2021), a blog post by the White House Council of Economic Advisers in recognition of Juneteenth.

  • "A Brief History of Zoning in Cambridge" (2019), by Will MacArthur. A report prepared for then-Mayor McGovern studying the political forces that have shaped Cambridge's zoning history (primarily, the desire to maintain neighborhood socioeconomic exclusion). It also examines the relationships between current zoning and demographics, illustrating how low-density regions of Cambridge are substantially whiter and richer than high-density regions.

Readings about the Housing Shortage

  • "The State of the Housing Market" (2021), by U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo. An overview of America's shortage of affordable housing, noting that "inadequate supply is perhaps the greatest problem in the housing market today", and of the Biden-Harris administration's housing proposals, which include investing in affordable housing, revitalizing public housing, and incentivizing the removal of exclusionary zoning policies.

  • "The Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2019" (2019), by the Boston Foundation. A broad, detailed view of the Greater Boston area's housing crisis, starting with key metrics, moving through various municipal best practices, discussing the relationship between housing and segregation, recommending actions for both the legislature and municipalities, and finally a town-by-town evaluation. Cambridge is doing better than most municipalities in the region - but we are still not permitting our fair share of housing supply, and we have an extra obligation to go above and beyond as a high-opportunity city with good transit connections.

  • "The State of Zoning for Multi-Family Housing in Greater Boston" (2019), by Amy Dain. Research commissioned by the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, looking into how and where multifamily housing is allowed in Greater Boston. It finds that very little land allows multifamily housing (where it is not banned, it is made impossible by "paper walls" of dimensional regulations), and that most projects are approved on an ad-hoc discretionary basis rather than by-right. It also finds that the vast majority of new multifamily development is being constructed at municipal peripheries, far from transit or walkable amenities, while village centers are only seeing incremental growth.

  • "Cambridge Housing Profile 2016" (2016), by the Cambridge Community Development Department. An overview of recent trends in the housing market, including stock, rents, and prices. Some notable statistics: As of 2016, Cambridge has 2.6 jobs for each unit of housing. 15% of its housing stock is affordable, and 61% of the housing stock is renter-occupied.
    • A useful companion to the Housing Profile is Christopher Schmidt's History of Cambridge Housing, which allows you to view typical buildings and the distribution of housing construction in Cambridge over space and time.

  • "Zoned Out: Why Massachusetts Needs to Legalize Apartments Near Transit" (2020), by Boston Indicators and the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. A report calling for a simple proposal: allowing townhomes, duplexes, and small apartment buildings within a half-mile of all commuter rail stations in Greater Boston. It analyzes the expected affordability and rate of redevelopment that such a policy would produce, and places the need for it within the context of residential segregation, high housing costs, and climate change caused by car dependence.

  • "Zoning's 100-Year Class War" (2023), a well-researched op-ed by ABC member James Zall in the Cambridge Day explaining how restrictive zoning has long served wealthy homeowners at the expense of renters and immigrants.

  • "What Has Zoning Reform Accomplished in Cambridge, Massachusetts?" (2024) describes the affordable housing projects made possible by the first-of-its-kind Affordable Housing Overlay and how other communities are considering similar measures.

Readings about Displacement and Tenants' Rights

      • "Mayor's Task Force on Tenant Displacement: Final Report & Recommendations for Action" (2019), by the office of then-Councillor Siddiqui. The report focuses on short-term, achievable actions, such as investing in tenant education, strengthening the condo conversion ordinance, securing more funding for support services such as a right to counsel, and collecting more data on displacement. It also notes, in closing, that "an effective, comprehensive anti-displacement strategy demands the City increase its housing supply overall".

      • City of Cambridge Tenants Rights and Resources (2020) - an informational flier prepared by the City summarizing your rights as a tenant in Cambridge. If you have any housing-related issues, particularly if you are facing eviction, please contact the Housing Liaison's office at 617-349-6337.
        • Housed in Cambridge (2021) - a web guide to the housing-related resources and services offered by the City.

Readings about Climate and Sustainability

      • "Build Mixed-Income Housing in Wealthy Urban Neighborhoods" (2021), a blog post by Zack Subin for the Rocky Mountain Institute (a climate think tank). A survey piece with many, many, links, it argues that ending the housing shortage in urban areas is key to reversing the trend of increasing transportation emissions, and specifically calls out Cambridge as one of many "wealthy, walkable or transit-rich, lower-carbon-footprint communities that largely restrict new housing".

      • "Green Manhattan" (2004), a New Yorker article pointing out how dense urban living is by far more environmentally sustainable than almost every other way Americans live.


      • The Affordable City (2020), by Shane Phillips. A how-to guide of the many different pro-housing policies that cities can adopt, written in a comprehensive, easy-to-read style. Phillips introduces the three categories of "Supply", "Stability", and "Subsidy", and argues that while different policies might be oriented towards one category or another, housing justice requires that cities address them all.

      • Golden Gates (2020), by Conor Dougherty. Chronicles of the San Francisco housing crisis, and efforts to fight it. An excerpt is available in the New York Times.
      • Generation Priced Out (2018), by Randy Shaw. A look at the housing crises in a number of different cities across America, the economic ruin they are causing, the policy decisions that led to them, and how different cities are trying to fight back.
      • The Color of Law (2017), by Richard Rothstein. A detailed look into segregation in America and how, far from being a "natural outcome" of economic trends and racist individuals, it was a direct byproduct of many explicit government policies at the local, state, and federal levels. A Better Cambridge hosted Richard Rothstein for a talk in 2018; you can watch the video here.
      • Neighborhood Defenders (2019), by Katherine Einstein, David Glick, and Maxwell Palmer. An investigation of how neighborhood participation in the housing permitting process, while theoretically open to all, exacerbates existing political inequalities, limits the housing supply, and contributes to the affordable housing crisis.

Presentations / Past Events

    • Exploring Property Data - presented November 7th, 2020 by Christopher Schmidt, ABC member. Discusses how to download and browse Cambridge's property data, and how to use GIS tools to combine and map it in a variety of ways. Slides and video are available.

    • Renters at Risk - a panel discussion on October 14th, 2020 with Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, Ellen Shachter, and Whitney Airgood-Obrycki. Discusses displacement and tenant protections, particularly in the context of COVID-19 and the expiring statewide eviction moratorium. Video is available.

    • Introduction to Affordable Housing Finance - presented May 14th, 2019 by Peter Roth, a lecturer at MIT, at a joint event with ABC and the Cambridge Residents Alliance in the context of the Affordable Housing Overlay (which had not yet passed). Discusses in detail what it takes to build and finance affordable housing and the associated barriers. Slides and video are available.