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Leading Priority and Key Areas of Focus

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Affordable housing has long been a top priority for Cambridge starting with the City Council.

In support of this, the City commits substantial resources and works diligently to address affordable housing needs in the community. A number of key areas of focus include:

Increasing the availability of affordable rental housing opportunities in Cambridge.


New affordable rental housing opportunities are created through new construction, the acquisition and conversion of non-residential structures to affordable housing, the acquisition and conversion of market-rate rental housing to affordable housing, and through the City’s Inclusionary Housing Program. Due to the high levels of public investment required and complicated financing model for development of new affordable units, partnering with affordable housing providers is a key part of this strategy, as is the use of deed restrictions held by the City and other funders to ensure long-term affordability.

As rents have risen steadily over time and remained well beyond the reach of families earning at or below 80% of AMI (Area Median Income), a key goal of the City remains ensuring access to affordable units where low, moderate and middle-income households, particularly families with children, can remain in the community paying rents that are affordable to them.

Increasing affordable homeownership opportunities for residents by providing assistance to first-time homebuyers; preserving and increasing Cambridge's affordable homeownership stock.


Buying an affordable home in Cambridge is beyond challenging in the current market. High prices, reduced supply, and increased interest rates have made it one of the most difficult times for homebuyers, especially homebuyers with lower incomes.

City support for first-time homebuyer programs through the Housing Division includes: a 4-session homebuyer workshop with available post-workshop homebuyer counseling services; HomeBridge, which offers funding up to 65% of the purchase price of a home; funding for downpayment and closing cost assistance; and offering access to the City’s stock of more than 550 affordable homes when homes are being resold. The City also allocates substantial resources to the non-profit development of affordable condominium units for first- time buyers and works with private developers to create new affordable homes through the Inclusionary Housing provisions. 

Increasing new housing production – market-rate and affordable.


Growing the amount of housing in Cambridge is a focus of the Envision Cambridge plan. New market-rate housing, which is built by the private sector, provides more opportunities for people who want to become or remain part of the Cambridge community. It also provides new affordable housing through the city’s Inclusionary Housing requirements.

Over the past year, Cambridge has worked diligently to update its zoning to spur the development of new housing, specifically through amendments to the Affordable Housing Overlay zoning and to area-wide zoning such as the Alewife Overlay Quadrangle (AOD-Q) zoning. Cambridge’s current planning work includes many efforts to promote new housing development, both market-rate and affordable. This work includes studies of areas in the city that can be rezoned to allow more housing, including Cambridge Street, Central Square, and northern Massachusetts Avenue. It also includes studies of ways that Cambridge’s zoning can be changed to make it easier to build housing in general, such as by enabling multifamily housing citywide and streamlining the City’s permitting process.

Improving access to affordable housing opportunities and eviction prevention services and resources, while increasing housing literacy for residents, providers, and property owners and managers.


Living in a stable, adequate home that is affordable to the household yields a multitude of opportunities and stronger outcomes for children, youth, and adults. A stable home provides a platform for improved outcomes around employment, health, and education. Staff in the City of Cambridge Housing Liaison’s Office assist residents to access and navigate affordable housing opportunities and to obtain eviction prevention, tenant displacement, and other housing-related resources and services. The Liaison’s Office also serves as a point of contact for complex housing situations that affect tenants, such as building sales, displacement from fires, and other multi-household concerns. The Housing Liaison’s Office partners with City departments, including the Multi-Service Center under the Department of Human Service Programs (DHSP), to offer educational resources such as weekly workshops and more permanent supportive housing programs.

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