Sunday, May 19, 2024

This month marks what should be my “lucky seventh” year of living in Cambridge. Instead, my husband and I are yet again grappling with the conflicting, confusing and often contradictory rules of navigating the inclusionary housing program.

When city officials speak to equity in calculating income, their policies do not align. If you are applying for child care with the Department of Human Services or an apartment through the Cambridge Housing Authority, your prior-year federal taxes are used as proof of eligibility; for those of us relying on the habitually rotating staff of the Cambridge Development Department, though, a snapshot of income is taken and multiplied throughout the year to estimate what a person should be making.

My husband is a hotel worker and member of Local 26, a hospitality union that represents more than 250,000 people. Like many industries in the area, his hours vary based on seasonal tourism. Whereas some weeks he can work five shifts, others he’s working only one or two. During a nationwide strike, he did not work for three months. The pandemic closed his job for nearly a year.

Unluckily, our recertification period happens during one of my husband’s busy times at work. Without fail, his income is always calculated to be much higher than his actual earnings. We know this by comparing previous tax returns with the projections.

This week – after our lease had lapsed without CDD sending recertification paperwork months ahead, as promised on the city website – we got notice that our rental fee will be increased by 48 percent compared with the previous year. We love living in Cambridge. And if our recertification was in February rather than June, we could probably afford to continue to live in the apartment that we’ve made into a home.

Despite appeals to the CDD, our management company and the Multiservice Center, we were told that rental rates can be adjusted only up, but not down.

I am writing this letter as an appeal for change. Many part-time and seasonal workers are being unfairly rejected or charged more than 30 percent gross income for renting in Cambridge. All we ask is to pay what we make, not what city workers think we will.

Sage Carbone, Third Street