Comments on Inclusionary Housing Petition

Date: March 25, 2017

To:    Cambridge City Council

Dear Mayor Simmons and Cambridge City Councilors,

The Fresh Pond Residents Alliance strongly supports the petition before the Council to increase the required inclusionary housing to 20% of all units.  While we support a rate of 25%, we feel that the increase to 20% currently being considered by the City Council is significant and should be adopted as an interim step, with the ultimate goal of 25%.

This is an urgent matter. The foregone affordable housing due to the current low inclusionary rate is a great loss. The Alewife area is the site of rapid construction of large luxury rental residential buildings, already exceeding the city’s own planning projections. Over the past 6 years, the higher 20% percentage would have yielded an additional 201 units on top of the 397 affordable units already developed or in the immediate pipeline.

We also strongly believe that the new higher rate should be applied to Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) throughout the city, both existing–when special permit amendments are proposed–and future.  The FPRA would like to again emphasize the urgency of the need for more affordable housing–every possible opportunity should be used to apply the 20% standard to existing PUDs. The sheer number of inclusionary units that this one act will create–212 affordable homes at North Point alone–cannot in good conscience be ignored; the number of inclusionary units coming out of other development proposals pale in comparison.  Other large PUD developments, like MXD in Kendall Square, are providing 25% affordable housing, which shows that it is economically feasible.

We are concerned that Cambridge is becoming a divided city, a city of those who can afford the high market rate housing (owned or rental) and those who qualify for subsidized housing. The middle is disappearing, and we see that only too clearly in our own neighborhood. Inclusionary housing should include housing for the middle income as well as low income residents. This may need to be an add-on to the 20% as it will assume somewhat higher rents, but we need to avoid just building for the extremes.  The housing that is being built should also include home ownership options to encourage a more stable population. The current trend of rapid expansion of luxury rental housing is undercutting the qualities we all say we cherish in our city, of diversity, equity and a sense of community.

The FPRA also strongly supports the provisions in the proposed ordinance that requires: three-bedroom units, affordable units in smaller buildings, more frequent review, an earlier full implementation date, and no further increases in density.

We therefore ask the City Council to:

  1. Remove the PUD exclusion language from the proposed ordinance.
  1. Assert that major amendments to a PUD’s special permit should trigger the application of 20% Inclusionary housing.
  1. Ask that the City require 15% affordable Inclusionary housing in existing PUDs starting now.  This change would result in 87 additional affordable units at North Point.
  1. Add the new language that allows lower rent levels for Inclusionary tenants who have lost income and allows flexibility for poor credit.
  1. Add the new language stating that the City Manager promulgates Inclusionary regulations and that there will be a 30 day review with a public meeting.
  1. Ask the Community Development Department to propose to the Council how the City can increase the amount of middle income affordable housing.

Thank you for considering our comments. Please don’t hesitate to contact the FPRA Board if you have any questions.

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