Local elections are being held tomorrow, Tuesday Nov. 5th, across a number of local municipalities. Housing has become the defining issue, a point which was highlighted in a recent Globe editorial suggesting which candidates (and organizations) to follow and vote for if you are interested in making enough space for newcomers:
If you live in Cambridge, I hope you'll join me in supporting the slate of candidates endorsed by A Better Cambridge Action Fund. They are [(I) denotes incumbent]:
Alanna Mallon (I)
Marc McGovern (I)
Sumbul Siddiqui (I)
Denise Simmons (I)
Tim Toomey (I)
Because of Massachusetts law (noted in the previous post), six votes of nine are required to enact any zoning changes. This has hamstrung efforts by activists to get zoning relief passed, like the 100% affordable housing overlay, and dimmed prospects for broad-based reform. For more info on the affordable housing overlay, this site serves as an excellent primer: https://www.ahoreality.org/
Cambridge's election results came in, and I am pleased to report that 6 of the 9 candidates endorsed by A Better Cambridge won! There are two newcomers: Jivan Sobonho-Wheeler (on the ABC slate) and Patty Nolan, replacing Jan Devereux (outgoing) and Craig Kelley (who barely lost to Dennis Carlone).
The immediate policy implication is that the Affordable Housing Overlay now has the votes to pass. It remains to be seen if there will be new amendments or if previous amendments will be shed, but we can expect some version of it to make it through the council chambers and significantly reduce the costs to build 100% affordable housing in the city.
Reading the tea leaves a bit, there are a number of very positive signs for the pro-housing camp that came from this election cycle:
Sumbul Siddiqui won in the first round of voting, showing that voters strongly supported her move to proceed with the Sullivan Courthouse redevelopment. This also implies that her un-endorsements from Cambridge Resident's Alliance and Our Revolution didn't affect her in the least.
The ABC slate picked up more first-place votes and outperformed all of the other slates, showing the strength of the pro-housing message
All 8 members of the incoming council who responded to ABC's questionnaire (that is, everyone but Dennis Carlone) voiced support for a number of pro-housing measures, and there is likely to be consensus on those moving forward:
Reducing/eliminating parking minimums
Eliminating single family zoning (aka triple-deckers everywhere)
Increasing money in the affordable housing fund
Increasing tenant protections
Rezonings in corridors and business districts (like the current Harvard Square proposal)
The unity among the ABC candidates who didn't get elected ultimately helped advance the other slate-mates
A special shout-out to Burhan Azeem, who led serious efforts in getting MIT students, young people, and other newcomers registered to vote. Although he finished behind Kelley, his voters helped elect the rest of the ABC slate (Adrianne Musgrave finished right behind him, as well).
In the future, I expect there will still be vigorous discussion over market-rate developments, and how the council can extract the most value from developer-led spot rezones. However, there seems to be momentum toward an evolving understanding of the pitfalls of this approach and the constraints it places on supply, and it will be interesting to see what proposals the city council comes up with this cycle.