Friday, May 24, 2024

022815i-A-Better-Cambridge-mapFrom A Better Cambridge, Feb. 26: Cambridge faces a serious crisis. While our economy booms, working families struggle to afford the cost of rent or homeownership.

LetterA Better Cambridge – a citywide organization of Cambridge residents who work to build a more diverse and sustainable community – is calling on the City Council to enact zoning and regulatory changes to allow the creation of 8,500 new mixed-income housing units over the next 15 years.

According to an analysis of regional housing needs by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, an aging population, growing cultural diversity and changing household preference will intersect to create a Boston metropolitan region in 2030 that is markedly different from what exists today. MAPC projects that the region needs more than 400,000 new housing units – including 8,500 in Cambridge – to meet the expected demand for housing by current and future residents in the coming 15 years.

Using U.S. Census data to determine how income distribution among Cambridge families has changed in recent decades, ABC determined that at least 20 percent of the new units must be affordable to low-, moderate- and middle-income families to maintain an economically diverse community.

Jesse Kanson-Benanav, ABC chairman and a Wellington-Harrington resident, believes the council must act soon to address the dwindling supply of affordable housing for Cambridge families: “We have planned, studied, convened and discussed our housing crises enough,” Kanson-Benanav said. “Now we have the opportunity to respond directly by zoning for increased density – taller buildings and increased floor area ratios – at major transportation hubs and along major corridors in Cambridge.”

Kanson-Benanav explained that the council and Planning Board are considering a zoning proposal by Normandy Partners and Twining Properties to create the Mass+Main mixed-income and mixed-use zoning district in Central Square – a productive step toward the 8,500 new housing units needed to preserve our diverse community.

ABC encourages councillors and Planning Board members to work with Normandy and Twining to ensure their final project achieves the goal of being a sustainable, transit-oriented community with the greatest number of affordable housing units possible.

In addition to passing the zoning, ABC challenges the council to take concrete action on the following items before this November’s election:

bullet-gray-small For the rest of Central Square, at a minimum pass the zoning recommendations offered by the Central Square Advisory Committee, recommendations the council itself requested.

bullet-gray-small Initiate a review of zoning around other transit hubs and major corridors across the city  with intent to provide increased density to allow for the creation of more mixed-income housing with local retail components.

bullet-gray-small Increase linkage fees and the inclusionary zoning of affordable housing to create and support more affordable units.

bullet-gray-small Reduce or eliminate parking minimums from the zoning code, at the very least around transportation hubs.

bullet-gray-small Use every means of influence the city has to increase the amount of housing that universities build on their campuses to reduce the pressure on the Cambridge housing market.

Read the group’s full statement here.

Update on March 4, 2015: Jesse Kanson-Benanav has sent the following to modify his letter: “In a recent statement, A Better Cambridge called for building 8,500 housing units in Cambridge and mistakenly attributed this number to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. MAPC itself calls for the creation of between 3,100 and 6,200 units in Cambridge by 2030.

“Our number was derived by subtracting the existing number of occupied units in Cambridge according to the 2012 American Community Survey from MAPC’s projection for the number of units Cambridge needs under a “strong region.” That resulted in our 8,500 unit goal.

“We appreciate MAPC calling this error to our attention and apologize for any confusion our error in attribution caused.

“We look forward to a robust discussion of how our community should best respond to this clear need for housing.”