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100%-Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay

The idea for an 100%-Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay has grown out of discussions with the City Council to introduce policy changes that will address the housing crisis. The goal is to help affordable housing developers, using public funds, create new affordable units more quickly, more cost effectively, and in areas where there are fewer affordable housing options for residents.

Affordable housing developers often cannot compete with market-rate developers who can afford to pay more for land and buildings. There are also areas of the city where current zoning makes the creation of new affordable housing infeasible. Allowing affordable housing providers to build more densely than market-rate developers will create opportunities in these neighborhoods. Affordable housing developers have also faced long and costly permitting challenges delaying their ability to complete new affordable units. Streamlining the approval process for 100%-affordable housing will help reduce development costs and allow affordable housing providers to create new affordable units more quickly and use public funding more effectively.

The idea was advanced during the Envision Cambridge city-wide planning process. The Envision Cambridge Housing Working Group recommended it as one of their proposed strategies to expand affordable housing opportunities across the city.

The City Council’s Housing Committee has expressed interest in considering this idea further. Community Development staff are now developing the concept so that more detailed discussions with the City Council can take place in early 2019, in advance of filing a petition to amend the Zoning Ordinance for City Council consideration. Amendments to the Zoning Ordinance can be enacted when approved by the City Council after a public process, which includes review by the City Council Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board.  The public process begins when a zoning petition is filed.

Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay Proposal FAQ - Expanded (March 2019)

Draft Text for Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay (March 2019) City staff have prepared a draft zoning text for the 100%-Affordable Housing Overlay proposal for discussion at the March 28th meeting of the Housing Committee.  Please note that the draft provided here is a work in progress as City staff continue to work on this matter.

100%-Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay FAQ (Fall 2018)

100%-Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay Infographic

View a map of Affordable Housing Units by Census block