Councilors divided on aggressiveness of affordable housing push

Wicked Local Cambridge | By Bill Whelan
January 6, 2017

Cambridge city councilors are at odds over the details of an affordable housing proposal that could affect whether or not hundreds of affordable housing units are built in the city.

The Ordinance Committee met Wednesday to debate a set of amendments to the city’s inclusionary housing provisions that force developers to set aside a certain number of housing units as affordable.

Fear of Trump administration a factor

Affordable housing advocates in Cambridge pleaded for city councilors to quickly move forward on the proposal. With the uncertainty of federal housing policy under the Trump administration looming, advocates said it’s imperative to make changes to the city’s inclusionary housing provisions.

“We’re very concerned about what happens on Jan. 20. We’re going to have to fight to keep Section 8 subsidies. If [the Department of Housing and Urban Development]’s budget is cut and Section 8 is cut we’re going to have people displaced all over the country,” said Susan Susan Schlesinger, member of the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust.

Roughly 960 affordable units have been created or are under construction in Cambridge through the city’s inclusionary housing measures. The current inclusionary zoning laws in Cambridge haven’t been changed in 18 years. The proposed amendments would increase the amount of space set aside for affordable housing from 11.5 percent of units in a development to 20 percent of the total unit floor area. The proposed amendments would also incentivize developers to create larger family-size units with at least three bedrooms in new developments.

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