Updated Rates for Affordable Housing in Cambridge

800px-City_Hall_-_Cambridge__MA_-_IMG_3958.JPGCambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone has introduced an important new policy order, calling on the city to move forward with an update to the Incentive Zoning Housing Contribution rate.

This one change has the potential to help the city obtain millions of extra dollars for its affordable housing programs. The policy order will appear as Order #2 (O-2) on Monday's agenda, and it is being co-sponsored by Councillor Mazen.

Click here to read the full text of the Housing Contribution order: http://www2.cambridgema.gov/cityClerk/PolicyOrder.cfm?item_id=42684

In 1988, the city council adopted the Incentive Zoning program to mitigate the impact of large-scale commercial development on the city's housing market. The way it works is fairly straightforward. A "nexus study" establishes the dollar amount for a one-time fee to be paid by large, commercial developers who are seeking certain special permits, and by law, the city council is supposed to review and update that amount every three years based on changing conditions in the economy and the housing market.

However, the city council has not updated the figure in many years. The last nexus study was completed in the year 2002, and it called for the Housing Contribution rate to be set at $7.83 per square foot of applicable commercial development — but the council didn't implement that recommendation, and currently, the rate is set at $4.58 per square foot. Adjusted for inflation, the 2002 recommendation is approximately $10.00 in 2014 dollars.

Over the years, the Incentive Zoning program has provided millions of dollars for affordable housing in our city, but given the extent of the challenges now facing our lower- and middle-income residents and families, we cannot afford to leave any of this money on the table in the future.

Since taking office back in January, Councillor Carlone has been working with the City Administration to ensure that we commission a new nexus study — but that process will take many months, at the very least — so in the meantime, he and Councillor Mazen are hoping that the council will implement the 2002 recommendations, creating the potential for added funding for our affordable housing programs.


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