Tim Toomey

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

Cambridge is a very desirable community to live in with unparalleled social services and a vibrant retail community. Increased housing demand and regional lack of supply have caused Cambridge’s high-priced housing market. Also, unfortunately, time and time again, Cambridge has passed on many sites throughout the most exclusive neighborhoods in the City which could have been utilized for affordable housing. In 2017, I sponsored a policy order for the City to enter into negotiations with the Episcopal Divinity School and Lesley University for the purchase of the 8-acre Episcopal Divinity School site in Harvard Square which would have been perfect for affordable housing-close to retail and transit and the City passed on it. In 2010, I sponsored a policy order for the City to consider purchasing the Society of Jesus in New England’s Properties for affordable housing and the City passed on the opportunity. Also, the City passed on purchasing the Hickey Funeral Home in West Cambridge which has since been converted into high-end condos. The City needs to build affordable housing in all parts of the City and be more creative and proactive in identifying available sites to do so.

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

High housing prices decrease social and economic diversity. Cambridge and the surrounding regions are becoming exclusive neighborhoods where only the affluent can afford to live. Growing up in East Cambridge, I value the diversity in our neighborhood. We need to maintain our diversity for the future.

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

The housing options that currently exist for low-income tenants who are not high on the affordable housing waitlists is dependent on the benevolence of landlords. In order to help these individuals and families, the City can enact the zoning amendment I introduced to allow lodging houses in all parts of the City. These single-room occupancy units could provide transitional housing opportunities for our low-income residents and allow them to keep their residency status (which maintains position on the permanent housing lists through the Cambridge Housing Authority). Also, the housing committee has been discussing a mechanism to give some sort of preference to allow for residents who have had to leave Cambridge due to gentrification of the City to return.

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

We need all kinds of housing to alleviate the pressure on our existing stock. New affordable housing creates opportunity for lower-income residents to stay in Cambridge.

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

Cities like Cambridge can play a role in confronting climate change by focusing on smart, transit-oriented growth opportunities which help people live near where they work which reduces the number of cars in Cambridge.

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

Housing provides people with opportunity and stability; living close to work allows people to have a shorter commute which overall increases quality of life. Having more residents is beneficial to our small businesses that improve the livability of our neighborhoods.

Do you support the Affordable Housing Overlay? Please explain.

Yes: I have a long history of supporting some form of an overlay that would better distribute our shared goals of city-wide affordable housing.

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

Yes: Makes sense to lower parking minimums because in the past few years, the population has increased while the number of resident parking permits has decreased.

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

Yes: Yes, for too long these single-family zoning districts have not provided any affordable housing. Every neighborhood in Cambridge needs to provide multi-family housing.

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

The City needs to provide transitional housing opportunities for our residents. The City should consider my zoning amendment that I submitted to allow lodging houses in all parts of the City. The most exclusive neighborhoods in the City (the residential A 1’s, A-2’s and B’s) do not currently allow this type of housing. If the City could incentivize homeowners and partner with our non-profits, these houses could be converted and provide affordable housing for our most vulnerable populations. Also, the City can continue to support the free legal services provided through Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services and the DeNovo Center; our residents need to know about their housing rights.

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

Complete the Grand Junction Path: I have been one of the longest advocates of the Grand Junction Path which will provide pedestrians and cyclists with a direct, safe route between East Cambridge, Area IV, Kendall Square and Cambridgeport. This past term, I advocated for the City to enter into negotiations with the Cambridge Housing Authority to get the path to the Somerville line. We need to provide our residents with safe infrastructure. Also, I have advocated for our bike share programs to be placed outside of public housing buildings throughout the City providing access to more transit options for our residents.

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

· Allow property owners who donate their property to avoid estate tax and make them eligible for other tax savings · Lower taxes and possibly water and sewer fees, in exchange for expanding property for additional affordable housing units · Incentives to re-configure property

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?

When a company wants to upzone a parcel, as part of their mitigation package, the City should require that the company contribute a large sum of money to our Affordable Housing Trust. Such companies are generating billions of dollars in revenue and need to be part of the solution in resolving our housing crisis.

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)

  • Climate Resilience Zoning Task Force: Last summer, the Brown petition came before City Council which attempted to focus on several sustainability issues that continue to impact the City of Cambridge and the entire region. While well-intentioned, the Cambridge Housing Authority along with several non-profit and for-profit housing developers expressed concerns about the consequences of that zoning amendment. I believed it was important for all affected stakeholders such as climate experts, affordable housing developers, business leaders to come together to plan for the future which created the Climate Resilience Zoning Task Force with recommendations coming in December. It's important to bring together people with a wide variety of opinions, experience, and knowledge to tackle these issues together.

  • Constituent Services: On a daily basis I am contacted by and need to advocate for people experiencing a housing crisis. My priority is to find people safe places to stay and help them to navigate the application process. I keep an office at 550 Cambridge Street to remain accessible to my constituents.

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

  • Municipal Campaign Finance Reform: Cambridge is rapidly becoming a city of the haves and haves-not and I have spent these past council terms submitting several comprehensive proposals to implement municipally funded elections. All income levels from all neighborhoods should be represented in our City leadership and we need to level the playing field to do so.
  • Completion of the Grand Junction Multi-Use Path: I believe that this is one of the best safe biking and pedestrian opportunities and will connect neighborhoods and communities. 
  • Job Connectors: Kendall Square is one of the most prestigious biotech centers of the entire world and our students should be connected to opportunities there.
  • Upgrade of Cambridge’s Recycling Center: As an avid recycler, I know that the Recycling Center is in desperate need of repair or even a new location. Our residents deserve to have a safe place to recycle.
  • Government Transparency: Increasing the ability of the public to interface with local government through its website. I was the first to sponsor many e-government initiatives such as allowing residents to the use the City‘s website to pay certain fees. I recently submitted a policy order that all council hearings in the Sullivan chamber be televised. I will continue to push for these hearings to be available to residents at any time.
  • Keep Small Businesses small by reducing burden: Because of my advocacy, the City started a pilot for small business recycling. The next step is pushing for small business composting and expansion of the recycling pilot.

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

Throughout my entire career, I have advocated for more affordable housing construction in all parts of the City. I’ve leveraged upzoning conversations to improve impacted communities which are at the forefront of my concerns. This has resulted in job connectors, open space, the assemblage of just about the entirety of the Grand Junction Multi-use path and affordable housing. I have a proven track record of bringing opposing viewpoints/groups together to find common ground. In my 30-year career in public service, I have demonstrated a commitment to my constituents and the ability to deliver on our shared goals.

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