Burhan Azeem

What do you think are the causes of Cambridge’s high-priced housing market?

Cambridge has a high-priced housing market for many reasons. There is speculation in the market as investors bid on property in the region and the unique characteristics of a heavy student and young population - who are willing to take smaller spaces.

The biggest contributor, however, is our lack of new housing. Cambridge is nearly the same size we were in 1920. A hundred years ago, the US population was under a third of what it is today. Forget everything else, we have not built enough homes just to keep up with population growth. It is not physically possible for all the children born in Cambridge to have stayed in Cambridge — this is the root of the problem. We have not done our part. If we had grown with our country, we would have the same density as many European cities like Barcelona and Paris. We should follow in their footsteps.

How have high housing prices affected Cambridge and the surrounding region?

People of color, working-class families, and middle-class families have been priced out of Cambridge, exiled to long commutes from car-dependent suburbs to work in Cambridge. This is destroying society and the environment, promoting segregation, air pollution, and global warming.

What housing options currently exist for low-income tenants who are not high on the affordable housing waitlists? How can Cambridge help them?

The 10-year waiting list that we have is a political choice. We have many policy tools we can use to tackle the situation. We can legalize single room occupancy units and micro apartments for single individuals, allow for much more development with inclusionary units and pass the Affordable Housing Overlay to drastically increase the number of affordable family-size units. The fact we have not done so is an inditement of us.

How does new market-rate residential development affect the affordability of Cambridge? How does new affordable housing affect the affordability of Cambridge?

Market-rate residential development plays an important role. The city cannot build enough housing by itself, we need to leverage private dollars. We can build a lot of housing and stabilize rents, if not lower them. Affordable housing keeps Cambridge affordable for all sorts of people (low income, working class, middle class, and more). It is an incredible program for integration and allowing all sorts of people to benefit from Cambridge.

What is the relationship between the twin crises of climate change and housing unaffordability? How can Cambridge address both?

Climate change is the crisis of our era. We are far too optimistic when we talk about climate change. We aspire towards a 1.5°C temperature rise instead of 2°C, hoping that this might allow some island nations to survive. This is wishful thinking. We imagine our world is currently heading towards decarbonization; we think, with all this energy for change, we are taking strong action on climate change. We 👏 Are 👏 Not 👏.

Housing is the #1 contributor to climate change. In the most direct sense, housing policy is climate policy. We need to build more housing and build it greener.

This means allowing for the construction of more homes. It is better for the environment if you live in a dense, transit-oriented community like Cambridge. This is the single most important policy. We can cut our emissions by half — or more — just by where you choose to live. We should let far more people choose Cambridge.

What effects might more housing in Cambridge have on quality of life or the environment?

People are the life blood of the city. Density allows us to invest more on public transport and biking, lowering emissions and cleaning our air. Density allows us to have all sorts of quirky communities that can't be found anywhere else. It allows to have wonderful locally-owned stores, a beautiful mix of cultures and communities, and a vibrant culture. More housing will just make us a more wonderful place to live.

Do you support the Affordable Housing Overlay? Please explain.

Yes: We need to build much more housing, particularly in high-income areas. The Affordable Housing Overlay won't solve all of our problems, but to avoid doing this smallest of first steps is morally reprehensible.

Would you support eliminating parking minimums for new housing development citywide? Please explain.

Yes: Cambridge should be for people, not for cars. A society that mandates a parking space for everyone, but not a home, is an uncaring society.

Would you support abolishing these restrictions by establishing citywide minimum zoning that allows more multifamily housing? Please explain.

Yes: In a diverse city like Cambridge, people have various lifestyles and ways of life. These rules all imply that there is a right way to live your life to have a small nuclear family. We cannot say we accept diversity when we outlaw diverse lifestyles.

What measures in particular should Cambridge adopt to prevent tenant displacement?

We need to have more housing to treat the root of the problem. We need to do this while protecting our most vulnerable residents.

This means allowing people access to the legal counsel in their most vulnerable times. We know that, given the same facts, people with representation are much less likely to lose their homes.

This means fighting for sealed eviction notices. If you were evicted once, that shouldn’t follow you around for the rest of your life — we are more than our lowest points.

This means fighting for rent stabilization bills (at the state house) like the one passed in Oregon because no-cause evictions and dramatic rent hikes are unfair to people who have done everything right.

What should the city do to increase walking, biking, and transit usage in Cambridge?

Earlier this year, I met a janitor named Jose. He was undocumented and grateful for the job. It paid decently, provide stability, and he liked making the place shine. He started work at 4 pm and ended at 2 am. In the mornings, he would take the T but at the end of the day — the T had shut down. He couldn’t afford to Uber. As such, every day he would spend two hours walking home. This is a disgrace.

It is incredibly difficult for our people to get where they need to go. Our region has the worst traffic congestion in the country. Our cyclists feel unsafe on our roads. Our mass transit is deteriorating while at the same time we keep pushing fare hikes. We are letting people like Jose down.

Making Mass Transit Work

MBTA service is unreliable. We have seen two derailments in the last few weeks alone. The delays are stacking up and are not about to be fixed soon. People count on the T to get to work on time and get around. Every hour spent waiting is lost income, lost time with family, and lost faith in our public services. We need urgency.

At the same time, we have seen fare hike after fare hike. In the last decade, the fare has risen almost 50%. We should not be paying more for worse service. These are #UnFairHikes.

Yes, the MBTA is a state agency and the city council has no direct control over it. That 👏 is 👏 the 👏 problem.👏Our cities understand how critical a working T is to our residents. We should demand representation on the MBTA’s governing board.

Biking

Cambridge has one of the largest biking population of any city in the US. We should take the safety of our bikers seriously and fully integrate them into our infrastructure.

This means following through on our Cycling Safety Ordinance and pushing our city manager to ensure we build up our bike network quickly.

More Here: https://medium.com/@burhanforcouncil/transit-policy-for-cambridge-7731be58ef1e

What should the city do, if anything, to increase funding for housing affordability?

We should increase the budge for affordable housing and utilize private markets to build more affordable housing through inclusionary.

What other steps should the city take, if any, to encourage and fund the development of more homes, including market-rate and affordable housing, in Cambridge?

We need a comprehensive approach.

This means pushing for the 100% Affordable Housing Overlay, banning single-family zoning, allowing subdivisions & accessory dwelling units, and pushing for city-wide upzoning.

This means pushing our universities to build more student housing when there is demand.

This means taking into account that the population will grow over-time and taking that into account with auto-upzoning.

We should not tackle this problem only by ourselves. This means working with our neighbors to make sure we are all building housing together.

What other measures do you support that will affect housing or development in Cambridge, which you have not yet gotten a chance to talk about? (Optional)

I support allowing density in areas are wealthy not just ones that were previously redlined and pushing the problem to our low-income and minority communities.

Aside from housing and development issues, what are some major policy priorities that you hope to push for on the City Council?

• Sidewalk Bike Paths & Bus Lanes​ • Completing Our Bike Network • Emergency Preparation for the T • More Protective Gear for First Responders • Safe Injection Sites • Universal Day Care • Municipal Broadband •

What have you done to advance the goals you’ve described in your answers above in your own work? 

I understand the climate and housing crisis on a deep level and know how to tackle better than any other candidate.

I understand sustainability. I have built solar panels & batteries, studied the cause of our climate crisis, and took it to the heart becoming a biker and a pescatarian.

I have worked to fight for better housing policy having been a member of A Better Cambridge and leading the fight at the state level through Abundant Housing MA.

And I am leading now by running for Cambridge City Council.

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