Sunday, May 26, 2024

Five ideas for our upcoming City Council election campaigns:

Solve the root cause of our ever-continuing displacement of so many longtime residents who can’t compete with the high salaries paid by Kendall Square biotech labs or Harvard and other offices by solving the inherent high-demand, low-supply housing problem: Enact zoning requiring that new offices or labs provide new equal to the number of new employees. 

Imagine a building is proposed to hold 100 new employees and that half decide to live in their employer’s new housing complex. Instead of 100 lower-income families being displaced by higher-earning residents – caused by supply being less than demand, the most basic law of economics – the supply of new housing is now equal to the new demand, eliminating and attacking otherwise-inherent upward pressure on rents.

Of course, our city has relatively little land available for such new housing. So we’ll need to allow it anywhere within a 20-minute commute by requiring that the employer provide appropriate free shuttle bus with a few stops here in Cambridge..

Municipal broadband need not be the only solution considered for vitally needed low-income Internet access. Instead, widely publicize Comcast’s long-standing offer of low-cost service for anyone with Mass Health (an option too few needy folks know about). Who would you rather have fix your broken TV connection at 8 p.m. some evening? An experienced Internet analyst available 24 hours every day, or some underpaid city employee never available evenings, holidays or Sundays?

Our city should start using its virtually unlimited powers of taxation and eminent domain more. Why don’t we have attractive, city-owned buildings for our police and firefighters and teachers and city hall workers who’d really like to live here but can’t afford to? Wouldn’t we be a far happier city if we spent some tax money to arrange that? Why must our property tax rate go down every year? Is saving money the only thing that makes us happy? Wouldn’t you really like to live in a happier, less-divided community?

Become aware of the huge hidden cost of incongruous new housing, towering over lower nearby houses, with smaller front, rear or side setbacks. It not only stigmatizes occupants of low-income housing, but reduces garden space and tree canopy and overall communal happiness. Less obviously, but also inherently real: New incongruity quickly reduces the tax revenues from many nearby buildings.

Why don’t we sponsor and help a needy the family of a newly arrived Afghan interpreter? Wouldn’t we all feel good about doing that, too?

Fred Meyer, Hammond Street