Haters are out for Envision Cambridge: Why and how we're going to support it

YIMBYs were outnumbered 2:5 at the latest Envision Cambridge Housing working group meeting on Thursday, Oct. 11.

The Envision Cambridge housing map.

Why do I care about Envision Cambridge again?

You care because this group is generally smart, fact-based and pro-density. More to the point, it's currently in charge of the affordable housing overlay proposal — a new set of laws that will make it easier to build more units of affordable housing in certain areas. That is, IF we come out in force to get the City Council to vote for it in March

The group's housing goals for 2030 are to:
  • increase the housing supply in Cambridge by 12,500 new units — that's a 23% housing stock increase
  • increase the share of affordable units within the housing supply to over 16%
  • have at least 25% of new construction be affordable
  • increase Cambridge's investment in affordable housing by 5% each year — from $13M today to $24M
  • maintain the number of households with children at at least 18% 
  • maintain the number of low-income households + grow the number of middle-income households
  • reduce the number of evictions by a number TBD at the next Envision meeting on Mon, 10/29

Solid Goals. So what are NIMBYs saying against them?

They're already out in force against the overlay.

At the meeting's public comment, a few expressed concerns over parking and "big-time developers." The last speaker decried the affordable housing overlay, mentioning the damage it would do to "neighborhood character." She was also against the idea of increasing the amount the City spends on affordable housing, saying that Cambridge prides itself on "low taxes." In her opinion, the Envision Housing group is in a bubble and doesn't represent Cambridge residents. 

In total, two people spoke in favor of Envision's housing goals, and five against. 

We need to show her and these other NIMBY voices that she is wrong. Envision Cambridge's housing goals are absolutely embraced by the majority of the City's residents, who want a more inclusive Cambridge that welcomes newcomers while making the planet more sustainable and resilient. 

What can we do?

As ever, show up. The next (and final) housing group meeting is Monday, October 29. It will primarily cover the problem of evictions. It would be great to have some YIMBY voices present.

Then, gear up. The fight for this overlay is going to be a long, difficult one. Green Cambridge is providing faux-environmental cover for many NIMBYs. It's important that we challenge this "It's about the trees, not the new, lower-income people" narrative. 

Interestingly, Fritz Donovan of the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood spoke, saying he is seeking to understand the process. Reaching out to that group and other neighborhood associations could be helpful. 


Reporting based on documents available at the links provided and notes by attendee Pawel Platawiec.

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