Thursday, April 18, 2024

It should come as no surprise to community leaders and residents alike that Cambridge has a very expensive rental market. But there has been very limited conversation communitywide about the impact of this rental market on our local nonprofits.

Cambridge Nonprofit Coalition believes the impact of the rental market on nonprofits is a critically important issue. Our local organizations must not only be financially stable but also increasingly nimble. Service organizations require locations that are central to public transportation, so they can be accessed readily by the residents who use their services, as well as their employees. 

Balancing a budget is becoming increasingly difficult for nonprofits across Greater Boston as rents climb. Escalating rents threaten the ability of Cambridge nonprofits to mitigate the economic forces driving inequality. When organizations are forced to spend more on rent, fewer dollars are then available to invest in the programs, pay staff and provide the services that advance their missions. The community suffers. 

Earlier this year 93-99 Bishop Allen Drive, known locally as “nonprofit row” and home to many nonprofits, went up for sale. Rather than letting market forces dictate the outcome, the Cambridge Community Foundation stepped in and worked with Cambridge Redevelopment Authority to make an offer that would allow the current nonprofit tenants to stay. The Cambridge Nonprofit Coalition applauds the foundation and the authority for supporting the local nonprofit field in this way. 

But we also recognize that this is an issue that is much larger and more complicated than the sale of one building and the impact on its nonprofit tenants, their employees and the residents they serve. It raises the question of what could be lost if nonprofits can no longer afford to operate in Cambridge.

In many ways we have an embarrassment of riches in Cambridge. We are the home to a thriving corporate sector and a robust municipal government, as well as some of the most prestigious higher education institutions in the world.

By marshaling these collective resources we can address this challenge. The Cambridge Nonprofit Coalition wants to work with our corporate and civic leaders to find a solution.


Tina Alu, Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee
Eva Martin Blythe, YWCA Cambridge
Selvin Chambers, Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House
Michael Delia, East End House
Jennifer Fries, Cambridge School Volunteers
Bob Gittens, Cambridge Family and Children’s Service
Jane Hirschi, CitySprouts
Eryn Johnson, Community Art Center, Inc.
Darrin Korte, Cambridge Community Center
Maria LaPage, Agassiz Baldwin Community
Sasha Purpura, Food For Free Committee, Inc.
Joan Squeri, The Union Partnership For A Whole Community
Sharon Zimmerman, Cambridge Camping

(Disclosure: Enroot is represented on the Cambridge Nonprofit Coalition Steering Committee and is the owner of 93-99 Bishop Allen Drive.)