Let’s Loosen Up Zoning: A Letter to the Cambridge City Council in Favor of “Missing Middle Housing”

June 9, 2021

Greetings Cambridge City Councilor,

I am writing in support of the Cambridge Missing Middle Housing zoning petition before the city Council at the June 10, 2021 meeting.

Like many Cambridge citizens, I live in a building that could not be built under current zoning laws: an attached four family dwelling in a Residence B district on a 9,000 square foot lot with insufficient setbacks. Yet, the property’s generous light, air, and other attributes are enhanced by the fact that it’s in a walkable neighborhood close enough to shopping and other amenities that I have not owned a car for over five years.

Most laws that grew out of movements to eradicate substandard housing and improve sanitation, such as Cambridge’s zoning restrictions, were well intended. However, as modifications designated less density and more parking, our zoning requirements have evolved from a proactive mechanism to ensure public health into a protective benefit that generates wealth for property owners. Current zoning requirements exacerbate three critical issues we face today: they foster environmentally unsustainable development; reinforce economic inequality; and entrench racial divisions rooted in the historic bias of redlining that’s baked into zoning.

It is time to end this institutionalized privilege and create a more livable city.

Last year the Cambridge City Council approved the Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO), and applied it across the entire city. I applaud this action. As a long-time supporter of local housing developer Just-A-Start Corporation, I know firsthand how AHO is already making it easier to create more affordable housing in our city.

The Missing Middle Housing zoning proposal is the next step toward a more environmentally sustainable, economically equalitarian, and racially integrated city. It extends select incentives of AHO to residential development of all income spectrums throughout the city; reduces parking requirements; and reinvigorates middle-density development such as townhouses and triple-deckers: the backbone of livable urban areas that were our city’s primary residential forms for decades.

The Missing Middle Housing zoning petition is a simple yet bold idea whose time has come. I look forward to your support of this zoning proposal as a solid step to creating the best possible Cambridge for all of us.

Thank you for your consideration and your ongoing service to our city.

Paul E Fallon

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Note: Graphics courtesy of Cambridge Missing Middle Housing

About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, theawkwardpose.com is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog, www.howwillwelivetomorrw.com, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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