Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler for City Council, 2019
Challenger running for City Council for the first time
Background: Land policy consulting | Focuses: Affordable housing and tenant protections, climate change, transportation
Edited and condensed from recent public forums.
What other ideas besides the Affordable Housing Overlay can be used to create affordable housing, and how can you create more housing while protecting existing tenants?
We obviously need an Office of Housing Stability. Ellen Schachter does a great job in Somerville, but we don’t have a corresponding person in Cambridge or a corresponding office. If you need support for affordable housing, it is siloed in different offices: It’s in CHA, it’s in CEOC. We need one-stop shopping for housing assistance. Also, there are folks who live in L.A. or San Francisco who might buy a home so that once a year when they come visit, they have a place to stay. We need a vacancy tax and policies that treat homes primarily as places to live in and not just as investments.
What are your ideas on climate change?
A big part is public transit. Traffic is the worst it’s ever been, and improving public transit will reduce car emissions. But also, people depend on the buses and the subways to get to doctor’s appointments, to get to jobs and live their lives. Another part of it is the Cambridge Clean Energy Initiative to fund grants for solar panels and energy-efficient homes. We’re not on track to meet our net zero goals in Cambridge, and we’re losing 11 acres of trees per year right now. We’re going to need those trees to fight against the heat island effect and prepare for climate change. When it rains heavily, we already see flooding, so we need more green infrastructure to absorb that water. We need more open spaces. All of this is part of our Cambridge Green New Deal.
The first thing we need is better data – is the problem parcel size, is it one developer who’s a particularly bad actor on their properties? And oftentimes we just need to be responsive to people and their concerns about trees on their blocks.
Which City Council vote from the past do you wish you’d been present for to cast the deciding vote?
One that passed in Somerville but failed here in Cambridge was about a tenant’s right of first refusal – if you live in a building and the owner tries to sell it, you and the other tenants would have the option to buy it and keep it locally owned and affordable. The council voted that down 6-3 in 2018.
All our city managers have been older white men. What would you do to ensure the next search is done better? Or do you want another Healy administration holdover?
Not having any women or people of color, like happened last time, is unacceptable. Cambridge is selling itself short. It is also important to note that we have a city manager who doesn’t support things the vast majority of Cambridge residents support, such as municipal broadband.