Cambridge renters and homeowners, as well as numerous neighborhood development groups, gathered Saturday at a forum hosted by the Cambridge Residents Alliance to discuss community concerns related to affordable housing and gentrification.
Longtime Cambridge resident Barbara Taggart, who has lived in the city since 1977, shared her observations of the many middle- and low-income residents who have been priced out of the area.
“It was a working class neighborhood back then, and it was diverse,” she said. “That, we’ve lost over the years.”
Taggart, 72, who used to own a local plumbing business, said she has seen approximately a quarter of her clients displaced out of Cambridge and into the suburbs.
According to Jan Devereux, a resident activist who said she plans to run for Cambridge City Council, the forum was a way for residents to better understand housing development and growth policies and to push for government action.
“We were asking how can residents effectively lobby and how city council and other stakeholders can be more proactive to put policies in place to incentivize building housing that is considered to be affordable to low-income people,” Devereux said.
In addition to calling for affordable housing in the future, attendees of the forum also discussed how the city government can better respond to residents’ current housing concerns and how to hold officials more accountable.
Along with longtime Cambridge renters and homeowners, two newly-elected city council members, Dennis J. Carlone and Nadeem A. Mazen, attended the event.
Mazen said, “A lot of people are looking at the bigger picture by considering both state and federal spending and how we can make decisions about housing and equity.”
According to Jonathan King, the co-chair of the Cambridge Residents Alliance, the event’s organizers believe that governing bodies—including the city manager, the city council, and the planning board—acting in the interests of large developers rather than those of Cambridge residents have led to the high cost of housing.
In addition to members of the Cambridge Residents Alliance, members of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance, Area 4 Coalition, and the Neighborhood Association of East Cambridge attended the forum.
King said that the Cambridge Residents Alliance expects to host another forum in the spring to discuss other residential issues such as flooding, air pollution, and traffic.
—Staff writer Sara A. Atske can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @sara_atske.