ABC News, Sept/Oct 2021: VOTE!, AHO threats, corridor studies, and more

(Sent October 17th, 2021.)

Help elect a pro-housing City Council! With the Affordable Housing Overlay under attack yet again (see below), it’s more important than ever that we elect our endorsed candidates, who will fight for a welcoming, affordable Cambridge. ABC also supports a YES vote on all 3 charter questions.

If you want to vote early (by mail or in person), click here for info.

Help us win this! Tell your friends, sign up to volunteer, and help us recruit more pro-housing neighbors to knock on doors (or phone bank, text, or hold signs on Election Day, Tuesday 11/2). For more, subscribe to our IEPAC’s election email list.

Lastly, don’t forget about the School Committee! 9th graders at CRLS have created an entirely-student-generated CambridgeVOTE! website with information about candidate platforms and policy goals. Also, if you’d like to hear from the candidates directly, see this video from the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association’s candidate night.

At the City Council…

  • Thanks to the Affordable Housing Overlay, 103 units of affordable housing are being planned at Walden Square near Danehy Park, and opposed neighbors are unable to derail the project directly. Unfortunately, they have instead filed two citizens’ zoning petitions seeking to weaken the AHO, citywide, by increasing setback requirements and reinstituting parking minimums. While these petitions will appear on Monday’s Council agenda, it is the next City Council that will determine their fate; so it’s extremely important that the next City Council be as committed as possible to protecting the AHO!

  • The much-abused Neighborhood Conservation District process allows as few as 10 residents to immediately subject neighborhoods to Historical Commission restrictions for years, without any Council approval or oversight. Recently, the Ordinance Committee heard extensive public comment [video] on a proposal to reform that process, and will deliberate further on that proposal at a future hearing. In an op-ed, ABC board member Dan Eisner took a high-level view, writing about the need to balance historical preservation with allowing for growth and change.

  • The City Council took steps towards a substantial increase in the “linkage fee” that developers of large commercial properties must pay to help fund affordable housing. They voted unanimously to forward to the Housing Committee a proposal to increase the rate -- set at $20.10 per square foot just last year -- to $33.34 per square foot, an increase of 66%. ABC supports the increase, noting that the strong demand for commercial space has not been slowed by the seven linkage-fee increases of the past 6 years, and that the City would have had $21 million more in affordable housing funds if the new rate had been adopted a year sooner.


  • A panel discussion on zoning and equity, presented by BC Law School and Harvard JCHS, is planned for 12pm on Thursday, October 21st. The panelists include Desegregate CT founder Sara Bronin, star MA zoning researcher Amy Dain, Boston City Councillor and State Senate candidate Lydia Edwards, and Michigan planning professor Harley Etienne.

  • As Congress wrestles with what to cut from the Build Back Better Act, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition has issued a call to action to protect the proposed $327 billion in federal funding for affordable housing. This money would expand rental assistance for 1 million households, build and preserve hundreds of thousands of affordable rental homes, and protect millions of public housing residents from deteriorating stock (see details) - but only if we take action to get it passed!  (Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is also pushing ahead with some smaller no-legislation-required “Immediate Steps to Increase Affordable Housing Supply”.) 

  • On our candidate questionnaire, one City Council candidate questioned the research on the climate benefits of urban infill development. ABC member Jonathan Behrens dug into the details, and wrote a piece explaining: Housing policy is climate policy - including in Cambridge, MA.

Don’t forget to vote!