THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX: Encourage Equitable and Sustainable Housing Alternatives
Cambridge has surpassed state mandated affordable housing goals. Yet we can, by making smart choices, do more to . create equitable and sustainable housing choices. Among the possibilities explored in progressive cities or advocated by progressive politicians elsewhere are the following:
*Create a Cambridge Housing Trust Fund - create an alternative housing production system through a non-profit that will acquire properties through purchase, donations, or bequests to serve this purpose, advanced in part through city tax rebatements, housing subsidies, and other means. Invite property owners to commit a percentage of appreciation of their homes/property to this Cambridge Land Trust. Help set up a program so seniors can deed homes & continue to live here.
*Tax credits for renters
*Create a housing investment at birth (baby bonds): By 18, children born into lower-income families would have nearly $50,000 to invest in a down-payment on a home.
*City financing to remodel to create low income accessory dwelling units and multi-family homes.
*7% rent stabilization for tenants who meet income criteria in buildings owned by persons or entities who have more than 4 rental units.
*Require new property owners to notify the city of tenant names and contact information; Provide legal representation for people facing lease termination or eviction.
*House the city homeless and provide aid.
*Build new mixed low and middle income affordable housing on city property (parking lots, vacant areas, above libraries and municipal buildings.
*Create a Mutual Housing Association (e.g. Housing Coops) to help individuals to buy property to live in with others.
*Starting a program of Home sharing: Both HUD and Habitat for Humanity have supported these.
*Provide a path to home ownership for low and middle income tenants with city-funded down payments.
*End restrictive zoning that precludes multiple family units (currently 7% of Cambridge housing.
*Lobby to Allocate state funding bonuses for transportation and other funding for cities (like Cambridge) that have already met state affordable housing goals.
*Acquire shared interest affordable housing (for artists, teachers, social workers, others.
*Limit tax benefits to one home per family.
*Tax any vacancies in housing and commercial properties that exceed three months per year.
*Improve public transportation. Streets are clogged with traffic and little action is anticipated in the near future. Neither the city nor the state have added more public transportation. This much change.
*Curate commercial and residential areas in order to provide needed amenities for local residents - from grocery stores and laundry facilities to parks and health facilities.
*Modernize city infrastructure. With the city's recent large scale growth the city infrastructure is under duress. In December 2018, just before Christmas, a Civil War era water main in West Cambridge broke flooding basements and causing millions of dollars in damage - none of it covered by the city. In East Cambridge, the large increases in labs and other commercial developments has introduced a crisis in electricity capacity, and pressure to address brought new concerns to this hard hit neighborhood to accept a massive towering electric substation next to a local primary school to help address capacity. The city needs to integrate neighborhood needs and concerns into growth plans.
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