Thinking Creatively About Affordable Housing

The issue of affordable housing is a complex and emotional one, and there's really no easy answer. But one thing I’ve learned, is that Cambridge has a strong collective will, and when we put our minds to something, we find ways to get it done.

This past week, the City Council voted to require that all new housing developments include 20% affordable units. While I fully support these efforts, I also recognize that this is only a part of the overall solution. It’s a single tool in our government toolbox.

To expand our efforts further, we must make affordable housing the number one priority in our city. That means thinking creatively about ways to support all residents but especially those in most need-- our lower income neighbors, our working families, our shrinking middle class, and our elderly citizens. 

In the video below (2min. 51sec.), I agree that raising the affordable housing rate to 20% is a critical and long overdue measure. But I also suggest other ways that our city remain affordable and welcoming to people of all economic backgrounds. In summary these actions include:

1. Reforming zoning to maximize affordable housing production in mixed-use districts (recent Central Square zoning was modified to require a minimum of 50% residential construction on any site to reach maximum buildout);

2. Limiting AirBnB (not sure what the generic term is) to only owner occupied units, not additional owned but unoccupied units (petition now before us);

3. Insisting long-needed university housing be built in near future (many MIT and Harvard graduate students live in former family apartments);

4. Increasing city budget allocation for Cambridge’s stated number 1 issue, the creation of affordable housing (previous budgets only include affordable housing funds generated by the Community Preservation Act and not City funds).

We can and must do better, much better.

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