Planning, cooperation sought in quest for affordable housing in Cambridge

Wicked Local Cambridge | By Monica Jimenez
November 23, 2016

cambridge-affordWhen is a high-rise not a high-rise? When the community plans around it, according to an old Cambridge Chronicle headline invoked during a Cambridge Historical Society conversation about affordable housing Nov. 17.

The 1960s headline referred to the development of rent-assisted apartments at 808 Memorial Drive, one of several historical answers to the question that three guest speakers and dozens of Cambridge residents gathered at the Central Square Library to discuss: “How do we achieve the affordable city?” The question was also the title of the Thursday night event, the third and final conversation in the Cambridge Historical Society’s “Housing for All?” symposium.

Although the speakers’ expertise ranged from sociology to urban and economic planning, and solutions ran the gamut from rethinking state and federal policy to building large-scale cooperative living projects, everyone agreed that the answer to the need for affordable housing in Cambridge must combine local efforts and cooperation on a broader scale than ever before.

Call for strategy

Imagine a family picnicking on a knoll and loving the spot so much that they build a house there—only to realize they have destroyed what they loved about it, said Japonica Brown-Saracino, assistant professor of sociology at Boston University and author of the book “Neighborhood That Never Changes,” who attributed the story to urban writer and activist Jane Jacobs.

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