Let’s make an Affordable Housing Overlay the law in Cambridge!

The City Council will consider a change to zoning laws that would make affordable projects much easier to build in 2019, after the Envision Cambridge Plan's policy recommendations have been reviewed and published. Fierce opposition to the proposal is already gathering.

If you believe in the overlay, tell your councilors!

Below are some talking points for you to take or adapt.

  • We simply are not building enough affordable housing. In the past few years, only three or four sites have been developed, a fraction of what we should be building. For a city that claims to be a beacon of progressivism, this is an embarrassment. That certain neighborhoods have no affordable housing is disgraceful. The affordable housing overlay is an important tool for addressing this injustice.
  • Affordable housing gets quashed for a variety of reasons, from NIMBYism to restrictive zoning laws that make it difficult for developers to make a project work economically. While NIMBYs will continue to be an obstacle, the overlay will at least help address the economic impediments.
  • Opposition to the overlay seems to stem, in part, from a fear that affordable housing will be built at a rapid pace. While zoning changes will speed up development, there's no reason to believe the city would be buried under the weight of rapid construction.
  • Understandably, many are concerned about a further reduction in Cambridge's tree canopy. To offset this impact the City can require all new development include either required green roofs or white roofs. These features may provide equivalent cooling effects to expanded tree canopy coverage. We also need to remember that density is good for the environment, since it reduces vehicle miles traveled and improves energy efficiency.


Email the council: [email protected] | Marc McGovern [email protected] | Jan Devereux [email protected] | Dennis Carlone [email protected] | Craig Kelley [email protected] | Alanna Mallon [email protected] | Sumbul Siddiqui [email protected] | Denise Simmons [email protected] | Tim Toomey [email protected] | Quinton Zondervan [email protected]

Pink and red areas indicate where there is more affordable housing in Cambridge. 

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