More than 80 people turned out via Zoom for our "Starting the Conversation on a Cambridge Community Land Trust" event on Saturday, March 6, 2021. We talked about what it would take to start Community Land Trust in Cambridge, what makes the CLT model unique, and how starting one could create permanently affordable homes and help decommodify housing in the city.
Ben Baldwin and Liz Haney of the recently formed Somerville Community Land Trust presented on what it’s been like to start a CLT in the past couple years and the opportunities and challenges in a community similar to Cambridge. We also heard from Minnie McMahon of Dudley Neighbors, Inc about how an established Community Land Trust with scores of affordable homes operates.
Links with the recording of the event and the presentations from Liz, Ben, and Minnie can be found here:
As we head into the final stretch of the campaign, we wanted to provide deeper dives into some of the policy ideas in my platform. This policy paper provides a deeper look at one of the boldest elements of our Cambridge Green New Deal proposal to tackle climate change, economic inequality, and racial inequities at the same time: fare-free buses and subways for Cambridge residents by 2025.
The looming climate catastrophe makes the rapid transition away from fossil fuels an existential and moral imperative if we hope to maintain a peaceful and prosperous world for ourselves and our descendants. In its October 2018 report “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) painted a dire picture of a world warmed past 2°C—an unprecedented refugee crisis of millions forced to flee from the world’s most storm-ravaged regions, a loss of more than $500 billion from the United States’ economic output by 2100, the likely destruction of over $100 trillion in coastal infrastructure and real estate across the country, and the irreversible die-off of entire ecosystems in a new mass extinction event.
In this report, scientists on the IPCC warned us that we have until 2030 to cut global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 to 60 percent. This will require not just a drastic transformation of energy policy, but also a fundamental reordering of who and what we prioritize in our economy. We live in an era of rapidly worsening income inequality, where the poorest among us are the most at-risk of suffering from the effects of climate change.
We can even see this perfect storm converging over Cambridge—we have more millionaires living here than ever, yet also a rising number of unhoused neighbors whose lives are threatened by winter storms that increase in severity with every year of unmitigated climate change. This is a moral outrage that must be stopped.
But it’s not just a moral outrage—it’s also a political crisis. It is the fault of short-sighted leadership who, at the insistence of their fossil fuel-industry donors, built sprawling cities and suburbs only traversable by carand who prioritized tax cuts for corporate donors over fully funding public transit options like expanded subways and regional rail. This kind of failed leadership is why the T line that runs through the heart of our city is rusting away and getting slower every year, and why our streets are snarled with some of the worst traffic in the nation.
It might seem like this mess is too big to fix, especially when the federal government is controlled by a corrupt billionaire who pretends climate change doesn’t even exist. Fortunately, that hopelessness could not be further from the truth.
As we head into the final stretch of the campaign, we wanted to dive deeper into some of the policy ideas in my platform. This policy paper provides a deeper look at the history and causes of Cambridge's housing crisis, as well as the solutions that I'll seek to enact if elected.
For a growing number of people, living in Cambridge is simply out of reach. Poor and working people are increasingly driven out of their homes and away from their family, friends, jobs, and communities by skyrocketing rents. With the changing nature of the economy, more people are moving to Cambridge for jobs and opportunities, but we don’t have enough housing that’s affordable for them—especially housing for working- and middle-class residents. We find ourselves in the middle of a housing crisis. The numbers back this up—between 2010 and 2016, the city saw a 36-percent increase in the rental price of 1-bedroom apartment and a 28-percent increase for 2-bedroom apartment, not accounting for inflation. In order to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metropolitan area at fair market rent (FMR) without being severely rent-burdened, a renter must earn $42.19 an hour—or work 3.5 jobs at the state minimum wage of $12 an hour.
A large portion of Cambridge’s renters are locked out of any kind of homeownership when the median condominium sells for $767,000. As a result many teachers, mechanics, social workers and others who work in Cambridge are forced to choose between living elsewhere and dealing with long commutes into Cambridge or dealing with the expensive and tenuous rental market in Cambridge. Even those who have found an apartment have no guarantee of stable housing—scores of longtime Cambridge residents were pushed out of their homes on Harvard Street in 2015 due to renovations without the opportunity to return or assistance to find other housing.
One in six renter households in Cambridge is extremely low-income (ELI), according to a recent Boston Fed report using 2016 data. Indicative of the growing shortage of affordable housing for ELI households statewide, there is roughly one affordable and available (AA) unit for every two ELI renter households in Cambridge. With such a large portion of their income spent on housing, many rent-burdened households cut back on food, health care, or child-care.
Meanwhile, families struggle to find housing to fit their needs. Between 1995 and 2015, the median sale price of single- to three-family homes more than quadrupled. In order to purchase a median-priced single family home in 2015, one would need to earn nearly 2.5 times the area median income (AMI). Displacement continues to disrupt tight-knit communities and the social safety nets they provide. Although there is no shortage of statistics illustrating the financial pressures facing Cambridge residents, the psychological costs of displacement are immeasurable.
When housing is so precarious for longtime Cantabrigians and recent arrivals alike, Cambridge’s housing policy should affirm that housing is a human right—not just a commodity to be invested in and managed by a select few—and take bold action to make this a reality.
This is hardly a radical new concept. In his 1944 State of the Union address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined a “Second Bill of Rights” essential to the pursuit of happiness that included the “right of every family to a decent home.” Four years later, the United States signed onto the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which recognized housing as a foundational element of the right to an adequate standard of living, as essential as food and clothing.
Unfortunately, the real estate lobby has only grown more powerful since then. As a result, the laws and programs enshrining the right to a safe, habitable, affordable home have been eroded or—in the case of rent control in Massachusetts—repealed altogether. This has left thousands vulnerable to a red-hot housing market, unchecked speculation, and ultimately displacement.
It’s time to reverse that trend.
If we accept that housing is indeed a human right, it follows that we can no longer abide a handful of corporate landlords, property owners, and developers reaping record profits on the backs of working- and middle-class residents. In order to decommodify housing and place people over profit, the Cambridge City Council must take a more active role in the housing arena.
Housing policy cannot be created without the voices of tenants. Cambridge is a city where approximately 63% of the residents are renters, yet the vast majority of the City Council are not. Though some tenants in Cambridge plan to be here for only a few years, others would like to stay and put down roots in the city but understand there is no way to do so with tenuous housing and ever-increasing rents.
It is a problem for both renters and non-renters when the majority of Cambridge’s population is locked out of housing stability. The life and character of a city struggles when a significant portion of its residents don’t know how long they’ll be able to call it home. Representatives of the city need to reflect this reality and understand the difficulty of trying to survive in a city in the midst of a profound crisis.
I strongly support the work of Cambridge Bicycle Safety (https://www.cambridgebikesafety.org/) and have testified at city council with others from CBS in favor of Cambridge adopting a strong Bike safety ordinance, and working as quickly as possible to invest in the infrastructure necessary to make it safe for residents to bike from one end of the city to the other. This is critical for fighting Climate Change, for making transportation around the city more equitable, and to improve liveability in the city.
I bike around Cambridge and lost my two front teeth in a bike accident so I know all too well how important these invests are for Cambridge. I'm therefore proud to take this pledge from my friends at Cambridge Bicycle Safety:
"I support rapid implementation of the citywide network of protected bicycle lanes as described in the Cambridge Bicycle Plan. Specifically, I support complete implementation of the Bicycle Plan in the near future, within the next 5 years, using a combination of quick-build and capital improvements.
Additionally, I recognize that Mass Ave is the most important street in Cambridge and needs protected bicycle lanes for its entire length as soon as possible.
Accordingly, if elected, I pledge to do everything in my power–including by voting in the City Council, proactively working with the City Manager and City Staff, and promoting this initiative publicly–to ensure that the City of Cambridge installs continuous protected bicycle lanes along the entire length of Mass Ave from the Charles River to the Arlington border, by the end of the next council term, or has started a capital project to do so. These improvements should also include bus transit priority and pedestrian safety improvements."
Read more about my plan for a Green New Deal in Cambridge, including expansion and improvement of our bicycle infrastructure here:
Today, workers and friends at Wayfair are walking out to protest the CEO's decision to continuing doing business with border camp contractors, including friends from Boston DSA who helped bottom-line the walkout. They recently learned that nearly a quarter-million dollars had been made by the company from selling furniture to a government contractor managing the camps at the Border.
More than 500 employees signed a letter demanding the company change direction and donate that money to a RAICES, a non-profit supporting detained migrants. When the CEO refused to stop doing business with companies supporting the camps, they organized a walkout.
Photo Credit: (Jonathan Wiggs / Globe Staff)
A Red Line train derailed today. No one was hospitalized but 60 people had to be evacuated when the train came off the tracks just outside the JFK/UMass station. And huge delays have erupted across the MBTA system as a result. You might have been late to work or stuck on a platform. We spent $15 Billion on the Big Dig because traffic was bad downtown, but it hasn’t fixed the problem. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts legislature still hasn't passed the Fair Share Amendment to tax incomes above $1 million per year and use the funding to fix the T.
Why the difference in the response? There’s a lot of reasons but one is who the different projects benefit most:
Photo Credit: (Jonathan Wiggs / Globe Staff)Read more
If you’re following this campaign you probably already know that I care about housing justice. We’ve dedicated a major part of our platform to affordable housing and tenant protections, including specific proposals like enacting 21st century rent control, passing Just Cause eviction, and creating a Cambridge Community Land Trust.
But in addition to these steps we’ll be pushing for if I’m elected, there are things we can do right now to stand in solidarity with our neighbors who are facing housing injustice in their homes and neighborhoods. That’s why I want to let you know about the Stony Brook Tenants Union rally this Sunday, June 2 at 2:30pm and ask if you can join us there.
When: Sunday June 2nd, 2:30PM
Where: 140-145 Navarre Street and 150 Clare Avenue in Hyde Park
Public Transit: 32 Bus from Forest Hills Orange Line T stop. Or Fairmount stop on the Commuter RailRead more
I'm so blown away by the support I received this past Monday. Over 80 people crowded into 730 Tavern to join me to officially launch my campaign for Cambridge City Council, and heard speeches from State Rep Mike Connolly, Cambridge Resident & former city council candidate Vatsady Sivongxay, and Cambridge Activists Beth Huang, Itamar Turner-Trauring, and Louise Parker.
I said during my speech that I couldn't do this on my own, that this campaign isn't about one person, it's about all of us working together to fight for the values we believe in like Housing Justice and a Cambridge Green New Deal.
Some of the policies I talked about pushing for include:
- Making buses and subways free for all Cambridge residents
- Providing child-care at all City Council meetings
- A Cambridge Promise to fund public high school students attending public college and trade school debt-free
This campaign will be successful due to the support of people like you, so if you're interested in supporting the campaign please consider making a donation or signing up to volunteer. We aren't accepting donations from real estate developers or corporate interests, and I'll need all your support to make this campaign a success:
To volunteer, click here
To donate, click here
I'm so energized by how many of you joined me for the kickoff. We really have the power to do this. I was so honored by the speeches various people gave and I wanted to highlight some portions of the evening and share some photos:
Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, a Cambridge renter and tenants’ rights organizer who works with environmental programs at a land-policy think tank based in Cambridge, has announced today that he is running for Cambridge City Council.
“Cambridge is rapidly changing—rents and housing prices are skyrocketing, and we’re rapidly losing our urban tree canopy. We need our city councilors to ask: ‘Who are we developing for?’ And we need to make sure the answer is the middle- and working-class residents who are at risk of displacement due to housing costs, whether they’re long-time Cantabrigians or newer arrivals. I think our city government has been too passive, hoping that the market and for-profit corporate developers will solve our problems for us. I want to bring my expertise and experience in land policy and organizing to the City Council so we can fight for real housing justice in Cambridge that stabilizes rents in our community and doesn’t leave behind working-class homeowners,” said Jivan.
Rep. Mike Connolly, who represents Cambridge in the Massachusetts legislature, said "I've gotten to know Jivan through his work as an organizer and advocate for affordable housing and tenant protections here in Cambridge. I'm excited that he's running for City Council because I believe he'll be a compelling voice for housing justice and our middle and working-class communities who are facing continued displacement."Read more