Cambridge Tries Accessory Dwelling Units on for Size
May 5, 2016
May 5, 2016
Cambridge is world-renowned for innovation.
Whether it’s the first-class institutions of Harvard and MIT or the ground-breaking companies of Kendall Square, the People’s Republic is perpetually in the news for its contributions and discoveries. When you’re home to some of the smartest people on the planet, it’s no surprise that the community is also coming up with creative solutions to the massive demand for housing faced by the city.
Housing in Cambridge is expensive. Consider the fact that median rent in the city, $2,750 a month, outpaces the median rents across the five boroughs of New York City, which stands at approximately $2,295 per month. In an effort to preserve the dwindling middle class, rent is being subsidized for families of four with an annual income of $118,200. Building housing in Cambridge is likewise expensive – and the cost is rising. Right now, the City is considering raising the affordable housing requirement to around 20 percent (up from 11 percent).
A creative solution is needed. It’s why I’m excited about new rules, which came into the effect on the first of the month, that make it easier for Cambridge homeowners to create accessory dwelling units. This means owners of single or two-family homes can turn a basement into living quarters for family members, or to rent out.
The rules are a game-changer for Cambridge and for renters who occupy a difficult spot in the market: unqualified for housing assistance and unable to afford market-rate apartments. More than one thousand new units affordable to the middle class could soon be on the market without disturbing the existing footprint of neighborhoods. Demand for these units will no doubt be large.
It’s quite possible that despite the modest price tag, these units will not resonate with all renters. It’s quite possible that, conceptually, living in someone’s basement may be unappealing. Then again, no unit is universally fitting. But it is a creative approach to one of the city’s largest challenges, and the city’s effort to tackle housing costs is admirable.