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|Craig Kelley for Cambridge City Council in 2015|
|Because Neighborhoods Count|
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. . . The primary issue neighbors have with affordable housing is, as with market rate housing, the impact that any given development will have on available on-street parking . . .
Needed: an honest discussion of Cambridge's affordable housing policy
In its editorial of 27 January, "Redefine Affordable Housing," the Chronicle argues that if 'too many neighbors adopt a 'Not in My Backyard Attitude,' the city will never reach its goal." That is a simplistic, and inaccurate, summary of general neighborhood opposition to affordable housing developments. The primary issue neighbors have with affordable housing is, as with market rate housing, the impact that any given development will have on available on-street parking. The larger the development, the more problematic the parking. Even when our streets aren't clogged with snow, finding a parking spot reasonably close to home can be problematic for a lot of people. Who's to blame them for not wanting it to become even harder?
The City's "as much as possible, as cheap as possible" policy towards affordable housing ensures that overly large developments further crowd neighborhoods where parking is already tight. I have repeatedly asked the City's department of Traffic, Parking and Transportation to clarify how many cars are registered to various types of units throughout the City, as that data will help neighbors and developers have productive discussions about any proposed development's impact on local parking. For reasons it refuses to make clear, the City will not develop and make public that data. The City also lacks a coherent policy on affordable housing that the general public can review so that neighbors can feel more comfortable that the impact of a development on their daily lives is part of a coherent, sensible and well-implemented plan.
It is easy for City officials and newspaper editors to call opponents to any affordable housing proposal either racist or NIMBYist. It is much harder to actually develop a meaningful discussion, with supporting data, about what Cambridge's affordable housing policy should be. The Chronicle, City officials, affordable housing advocates and concerned residents must have such a discussion if we ever want a truly effective and fair affordable housing program.