Connolly innovates on affordable housing, deserves election, development activists say
From Phyllis Bretholtz, Jonathan King and Nancy Ryan, Aug. 26, 2016: In the race for the State House 26th Middlesex District of Cambridge and Somerville, Mike Connolly has proven himself to be the candidate with the most potential to do something about our ongoing affordable housing crisis.
Mike was raised in public housing, and he and his wife are renters in a triple-decker on Harding Street right on the Somerville line. For Mike, the issue of housing affordability isn’t just a campaign slogan, it’s personal.
He is the only candidate who has done innovative work to address our housing emergency. In 2013, he helped lead the call for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to produce affordable housing for its thousands of graduate students who are left to find housing in the neighborhoods of Cambridge and Somerville. His widely published essay called on City Hall to demand MIT build grad housing, but longtime elected officials including Tim Toomey failed to take bold action when MIT was looking for zoning relief.
As a City Council aide, Mike produced research showing how officials had allowed the city’s incentive zoning linkage fee for affordable housing to go without an update for many years, despite a law calling for it. His calculations showed the city had left millions of dollars “on the table” in dealings with developers and helped the successful push for an increase.
In 2015, Mike produced an original report that demonstrated how Cambridge has built or permitted approximately 7,000 units of new housing, far outpacing projections for the city. The problem, as Mike explained, is that almost all of these new housing units are tiny, luxury apartments, unsuitable for families and unaffordable for people with ordinary incomes. The developers of the Mass+Main project in Central Square, for instance, propose that 60 percent to 80 percent of its units will be studio and one-bedroom units.
Mike has been on the front lines of the struggle for affordable housing, even when his commitment has earned him criticism from politicians beholden to real estate interests and comfortable with the status quo. In the race for the State House, it is unfortunate that Rep. Toomey has resorted to attacking Mike’s record on affordable housing. Voters shouldn’t buy it. Rep. Toomey has had 24 years to address our housing emergency while conditions have worsened. Mike Connolly is the one candidate who offers promise and potential in the face of this ongoing housing crisis.
The writers are among leaders of the Cambridge Residents Alliance, which identifies itself as representing “individuals and neighborhood organizations committed to preserving and promoting a livable, affordable and diverse Cambridge community.”