Development, Affordability and the Future of Cambridge

Our city is currently facing some incredibly powerful market forces. Such forces are driving up the cost of living, making it difficult for ordinary Cantabrigians to stay in the city. Lifelong Cambridge residents are being unjustly forced out of a city that they’ve called home for years. It’s important that we do more to protect the communities and people that make Cambridge great.

Unrestricted and careless development threatens the very fabric of our city. The real estate focus on luxury housing development means an increase in tax burdens as well as rent prices. Subsequently, lower and middle-income residents are being squeezed out of the city so that luxury high-rises and high tech labs can take their place. If this pattern of development persists then we face a Cambridge unrecognizable from the one we live in today.

On top of this already difficult problem, a majority of the City Council has granted developer requests for exceptions to the zoning code. This means that developers can now build taller, denser buildings, driving the value of nearby property through the roof. I have fought against these and will continue to.

There are two visions for the future of Cambridge. One is a city of skyscrapers catering to only the wealthy and big tech companies. The other is preserving and growing the great neighborhoods and communities in Cambridge now. I believe strongly in the communities of Cambridge and have a plan to fight for them.

My Plan to create a Community Focused Future.

During my first term, we passed a policy order for the creation of a citywide master plan. The next term is going to determine what that plan will look like and how it will be implemented. Cambridge needs a plan that is community-oriented and based on expert analysis. Understanding the economic and community consequences of this development should be the basis of our revised zoning decisions.

This analysis coupled with true urban design-based rezoning means new development can better fit in to our existing city and incorporate expanded community amenities.

  1. Create a Master Plan that focuses on the community and the future of the city that the residents want. Rewrite the zoning code based on that plan so that development will happen in the context of the community and neighborhoods already here.
  2. Require new developments in mixed-use areas to include a meaningful component of housing to account for the dramatic increase in demand.

  3. Use zoning to regulate the type of development coming to the neighborhood such as light, noise, design character, parking and affordable housing.

  4. Increase funding for affordable housing by increasing the linkage fee to match the demand created by the soaring land values. It is currently set at $12 dollars per square foot. An analysis paid for by the city showed that we need $24 to match the actual rate of Cambridge’s housing affordablity.

  5. Start a progressive rebate property tax rebate program. Currently Cambridge returns roughly $10 million to property owners each year. 2/3 of this money goes to businesses. We could make sure that this money is returned to low-income property owners and we could use the balance to pay for universal Pre-K or affordable housing.

It’s important that we take these steps now before it’s too late. Our community neighborhoods are what make this city great, and irresponsible growth means putting them at risk. With your support, we can demand that we grow intelligently, so that we may receive the most benefit without risking our community.

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