ABC September News: AHO, tenants’ rights, Porter Square project, & more

(Sent on September 25th, 2020.)

On Monday, October 5th, the Cambridge City Council will cast its final vote on the Affordable Housing Overlay. We will send an email soon with further details, but mark your calendars now! The Overlay will make it feasible for desperately needed 100% affordable housing projects to be built in every neighborhood of the city, putting a dent in Cambridge’s legacy of de facto segregation.

We are so grateful to everyone who has fought so hard to make the Overlay a reality. The more support and gratitude we can give Councilors for finally passing the Overlay, the more likely they are to continue to stand up to NIMBYs and champion pro-housing, pro-equity measures in the future.

Renters matter… but not everyone sees it that way

  • Thank you to everyone who told the Historical Commission to stop the East Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District earlier this month! You exposed the process for what it is: a cash grab by a small number of property owners who hope to increase the value of their homes, leading to higher rents, in the middle of a pandemic. (You can watch the meeting here with Zoom password “k9Y.QM2u”.)

    Shamefully, the Commission didn’t want to hear it. One commenter insisted that renters, as “transients”, didn’t deserve to have their opinions heard. The executive director of the Commission said that getting renters’ input wasn’t even worth the 19 cents of postage that it would cost per person. Any suggestions that affordability could suffer were shut down as “contentious” or “irrelevant”, and at the end of the night, they unanimously voted to extend the study - meaning we have another year of organizing ahead of us. Contact Justin Saif [j (last name)] if you live in East Cambridge and want to continue advocating about this.

  • On September 14th, the City Council ordained the Tenants’ Rights and Resources Notification Act, which requires landlords to provide tenants with a notice of their basic housing rights, and resources such as the city’s Housing Liaison office which can help if those rights are violated.

  • On September 21st, partly in reaction to what happened at the Historical Commission, the City Council unanimously approved POR 2020 #208, a policy order requesting that city commissions notify abutting tenants, not just abutting property owners, when business is before the Planning Board, Board of Zoning Appeal, or Historical Commission.

In other news...

  • On Thursday, October 1st at 5:30pm, the Sasaki Foundation is having a panel on redlining, affordable housing, and housing policy in the Greater Boston area. Panelists include both A Better Cambridge founder Jesse Kanson-Benanav and zoning researcher Amy Dain - register here!

  • A 50ish-unit 100% affordable housing development is in the works for 2072 Mass Ave, just north of Porter Square. In addition to being Passive House, the income mix is between 30% and 60% of AMI, so it will provide much-needed “deep affordability”! More details will be unveiled at a community meeting at 7pm on Tuesday, September 29th.

  • Last week, Mother Jones told the story of police in Atlanta, who were asked by a building owner to harass and arrest Section 8 tenants until they moved out so that the owner could flip the building. It’s another shameful example of police corruption and institutional racism. See also this WABE story about code enforcement being used to accelerate gentrification.

  • In July, a team of researchers at Suffolk University Law School released a damning report about discrimination against Section 8 housing voucher holders in the rental market. Real estate brokers showed Black testers about half the number of apartments they showed to white testers.