Cambridge Citizens Coalition
Concerning Business: Susan Labandibar, Board Chair of Cambridge Local First, Foresees Negative AHO Impacts
Susan Labandibar, Board Chair, Cambridge Local First, forwarded the following letter to the Cambridge City Council voicing key concerns with the Affordable Housing Overlay from the vantage of local businesses. We publish it here with her permission.
"As currently written, the AHO is designed to increase development near subway stops and on transit corridors, which is where many Cambridge Local First retail businesses are located. These businesses are already experiencing dislocation due to development pressures.
The AHO does not provide funds for helping local businesses move if the building in which they are located is purchased by an affordable housing developer. Should a business want to return to its original location after development is completed, they may be unable to afford the new rent or may not be offered a new lease, since developers and real estate investors generally prefer to lease to national retail chains.
Local businesses not directly affected by property sales to AHO developers may be negatively affected by construction-related declines in business and rising property values, which are passed on directly to businesses via triple net leases.
For these reasons, Cambridge Local First cannot endorse the Affordable Housing Overlay unless protections for local businesses are included."
As a follow up to her letter, we cite here part of the Cambridge Local First Mission Statement which highlights how important local businesses are not only to the local economy but also to the vibrancy of each neighborhood and the city's livability for the city's various residents: “Today’s small business owners face a daunting array of challenges. Retail businesses are closing across the country. In Cambridge, an unstable and unaffordable commercial rental market compounds the problem. However, a thriving small business sector is vital to Cambridge’s sense of self. Small business ownership has historically been part of the immigration story. Entrepreneurship can be an important tool for individuals and families to grow assets and exit poverty. Entrepreneurs generally have higher incomes than their peers and are more likely to invest in their children’s educations. Customers, in turn, benefit when the businesses they frequent are mindful of their neighbors and invested in the success of local communities. As such, efforts to invest in entrepreneurship are also investments in the next generation and in a community’s future.”