Many residents are being driven out of Cambridge by ever-increasing rents and housing prices. Between 2009 and 2012, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment jumped 23% to reach $2445. The vacancy rate for apartments hovers around one percent.
Bio-tech and high-tech corporations are bringing thousands of new highly paid employees to Cambridge, many of whom want to live here. With more than 18 million square feet of new office, lab, and high-end residential space projected, redevelopment is putting tremendous pressure on the housing market.
Some economists claim that increasing the housing supply should result in lower rents and house prices. It doesn’t work that way in Cambridge. Instead, market development that caters to high-income people has a ripple effect—it raises the price of neighboring housing. The number of affordable homes lost through redevelopment is far greater than the number gained by inclusionary zoning, which sets aside 10-15 percent of new units for low and moderate income households.
We need to preserve whatever economic diversity remains in Cambridge and help it grow. We must stop the over-development train that is running swiftly down the track. The City Council should put the brakes on major up-zoning changes that would allow for new massive, high-end commercial and residential development.
Cambridge needs a serious long-term plan to protect its neighborhoods and develop affordable housing. The City Council should instruct the relevant city departments to work in collaboration with neighborhood organizations, trade unions, tenant organizations, and the Cambridge Housing Authority to prepare a comprehensive Master Plan for reasonable and equitable development in the city.
It’s impossible to retain economic diversity without restraining costs. We need rent control to be part of the city’s plan. A new rent control law should protect tenants and should include provisions that grant relief to landlords who agree to set aside apartments for income-qualified households.
Housing can and should be built primarily for low- and moderate-income households. Several thousand Cambridge households already live in public housing and other affordable housing developments. Our first priority should be to defend that housing and make sure it continues to serve those households.