Housing that is Affordable for All
I know that for many Cambridge residents the lack of housing that is affordable is their number one issue locally. This dearth in our community has led to our displacement crisis, which disproportionately impacting middle income residents, turning Cambridge into a community of the rich and the working-poor. I support housing that is affordable for all Cambridge residents, but I have not been a supporter of the Affordable Housing Overlay upzoning petition (AHO).
When a single mother in subsidized housing shares with me that she can't take that promotion because she would lose Cambridge housing, and she cannot afford the market rents. She wants to keep her children in Cambridge schools, but feels she really does not have a choice. What type of choice is that when the system that we have keeps poor people poor, and offers no incentive to transition economically?
Our middle income neighbors are disappearing faster than any other group in this city. The working poor in Cambridge have less disposable income when taking into consideration the higher cost of living in our city. People are being displaced at a greater pace, and we are at a place where Cambridge teachers and Cambridge Police officers can no longer afford to live in the neighborhoods where they grew up, in the city where they work.
So, what happened? Major tech giants have concluded it would be best to locate close to young talent. Although some of our residents have gained jobs, we have also gained gleaming towers. When rent control was abolished 25 years ago, market forces and developers took over. We no longer had a safety net for affordable housing in Cambridge. The combination of sharp rent increases, rapid turnover and displacement of renters, rising residential and commercial investment, and outward shifts in the supply of both condominiums and rental properties, affected the availability and affordability of our housing stock and retail rents.
Our current housing policies have long been weak and the City did not plan properly for the future. Instead of working to mitigate the housing issues, the City have adopted a developer-driven policy that has exacerbated the rising rents and tenant displacements, displaced many independent retailers, and has been harmful to our trees. The City also kept our residential taxes remarkably lower than our neighboring towns and Cambridge is codependent upon developers to fund our attractive city services.
Unfortunately, the current affordable housing proposals that the city council has on the table are inadequate to meet our needs and will allow corporate developers to control our housing agenda without the accountability of residents. I have publicly stood up against these corporate interests and offered forward a different path, one that is comprehensive, regional, and community-centered.
At the 9/9 City Council Meeting, the Council voted to table this proposal that I feel was bad plan, would not yield results, and caused much divisiveness amongst neighbors. The council does not plan to take it up for the rest of the year. However the fight is not over. The City Council have six months to put it back on the table, so the new council will inherit the possibility of the Affordable Housing Overlay moving forward again.
It is really important to flip the city council toward a majority of more progressive councillors like me. We also need a comprehensive housing plan and not a cookie cutter approach to housing policy that the city seems to be embracing. We must first prioritize tenant protections from condo conversions and no fault evictions. I a proposing that we create a new Department of Economic Empowerment which works across various city departments such as housing, workforce development and small business development so we can create housing polices that are holistic. We need pathways for transitioning residents as their income improves, so they are not displaced. We must and can do better.
We need home ownership programs that have teeth such as housing cooperatives and more attractive limited equity home ownership programs which will help stabilize our working poor and middle income neighbors. This is what true equity means. Economic growth can look like home ownership for those who can't currently attain it because they are priced out of the market.
So what is Cambridge planning to do? Build more rental housing to permanently keep residents in the subsidized rental market. Our low and moderate income neighbors have been forking up 30% of their income for generations without any pathway and plan towards true housing stability. Cambridge is keeping affordable housing developers in business by supporting policies that perpetuate the cycle of poverty. We need housing policies that also build equity, dignity and pride. It is time for change.
As your councillor, I will work to:
Develop a comprehensive and regional approach to housing and transportation that is affordable and environmentally sustainable for all
End displacement (not just evictions) by supporting bills like HD.1100 (Act Enabling Local Housing Options for Tenant Protections)
Support tenant protections like right of 1st refusal and right to counsel (which drastically decreases peoples’ odds of eviction)
Institute rent stabilization policies that incentivize property owners to offer below market rents for stable housing
Provide concrete goals and pathways to economic empowerment and home ownership
Increase the availability of affordable housing by building on city properties like libraries and parking lots
Make government put people before profits by centering community input into city planning
Invest in housing cooperatives in order to house more people affordably
Overturn policies that perpetuate historic inequities, particularly the racial wealth gap
Ensure that we have a green housing plan
Strive to end homelessness in Cambridge by supporting Mike Connolly’s “Housing For All” bill
A Livable and Sustainable Cambridge
I am qualified to be a leader in advancing Cambridge's commitment to environmental sustainability. The City has made a lot of progress in advancing our climate action goals, but we need to do more. Our tree canopy has drastically decreased and is at risk, our 150 year old water pipes are falling apart, the electric power sourcing in some parts of the City is maxing out at 98%. On top of all of this, our City has embraced an aggressive growth plan of 25-30% by 2030. It is time for a Cambridge that works for all of us, that prioritizes people over profits and massive development. We need thoughtful growth policies that put community first.
We must ensure that the voices of the people come before corporate money. This is particularly important when it comes to the environment. In Cambridge, our tree canopy has decline 18% in the last decade, taking away from the beauty of our community and worsening the heat island effect that particularly impacts our seniors. As a community organizer, I pushed the city council to pass a tree-cutting moratorium and, as a candidate, I've advocated for a Cambridge Green New Deal. Ending the climate crisis will be impossible if we do not have the full weight of our city and its institutions behind us.
That's why I'm attending the Harvard Strike for Climate Justice and Divestment to call on students and faculty across Harvard and its peer institutions to walk out of their classrooms on Friday, September 20th. Hear from student organizers and powerful faculty speakers as we call for an end to Harvard's unsustainable business-as-usual mentality. All of our futures are on the line. It's time to recognize the emergency situation and take serious climate action.
I have been involved in environmental activism for decades and this work is sure to continue if I am elected to City Council.
Specifically, I will:
Support the Green New Deal for Cambridge and develop local green jobs
Continue to fight to protect Cambridge's tree canopy and maintain open space for all Cambridge residents. I supported the tree moratorium in mitigating and preparing for climate change
Support the Net Zero Task Force and expand net zero ready building requirements for new construction for not only municipal development, but also for private development and ban fracked gas consumption.
Promote "greener" modes of transit affordable and accessible and work on a regional transportation strategy with our neighboring cities in Somerville, Watertown, Belmont, Arlington and Boston.
Support the efforts of Zero Waste Cambridge for expanding and increasing city composting for larger apartment buildings
Encourage the expansion of the "greening" of Cambridge arts, cultural, and community events
Continue to work with the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts to encourage our school systems, after school programs, and affiliated institutions such as Cambridge Health Allianceto shift their purchasing to include more local food.
Work with Green Cambridge in advancing their climate action initiatives.
Work with Climate Action Business Association in supporting legislation that would effectively curb carbon pollution, provide a rebate to all households and businesses in Massachusetts, and reinvest in our infrastructure to make the Commonwealth more resilient to climate change
Monitor the City's investments to ensure no support of fossil fuels.
Encourage the expansion of urban farming and community gardens in Cambridge, especially in areas across the city with limited access to open space.
A Champion for Women
Not everyone can say that they have shared a curried chicken dinner with Shirley Chisolm, the first woman to run for President of the United States, and very few can claim that they cooked the meal themselves. I proudly make that claim. As President of the Black and Latin Women’s Society of her alma mater Wells College (then a women’s college), I invited Ms. Chisolm as the keynote speaker of their annual Women of Color weekend. As a Junior at Wells College, it was the first encounter with politics for me. Ms. Chisolm was authentic and fearless and those traits I was inspired to carry with her throughout her career.
I have been a life-long advocate, supporter and defender of women and women’s rights. That is why I am honored and proud to receive my first endorsement for my candidacy of Cambridge City Council from the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus. At the age of 14, while attending Alpha Academy, a girls school in Kingston, Jamaica, I conceptualized and helped to organize the school’s largest fundraiser. At Wells College, she I was an active leader in several clubs and organized dozens of events that inspired unity and diversity.
Prior to starting my own business, I advocated for women entrepreneurs as a lead consultant for the Cambridge Business Development Center (CBDC), a non-profit that supported and developed Cambridge businesses. There I mentored and trained hundreds of aspiring business women and worked with Cambridge Savings Bank in launching their first commercial loan product which catered to small businesses and many of its first recipients was women of color.
I launched my business, The Williams Agency in 1995 with the goal of promoting social and progressive issues, causes and organizing events and actions that matter. I worked with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on a number of campaigns. I led a state-wide Breast and Cervical Public Education Awareness Campaign and launched the state’s first Teen Pregnancy Prevention Campaign which yielded a national award for its radio ads. I was so committed to this work, I joined the board of Greater Options for Adolescent Lives, a non-profit that focused on youth development and sexual education.
I am not afraid to take on corporations who prey upon the vulnerable to stand up for what is right and just. I took on big Tobacco in the nationally acclaimed Anti-Smoking Campaign of Massachusetts. My most significant accomplishment for this campaign was when she led the public relations efforts for the Women and Girls targeted Campaign. At the time, Big Tobacco was placing full page ads in magazines such as Glamour, that targeted young girls with empowering messages of “find your voice.” I led a public relations campaign to directly counter these messages. The theme, “Find Your REAL Voice—Keep it Fresh,” drew national attention, and eventually Big Tobacco pulled all the ads. As a Cambridge City Councilor, I will fight for social and economic justice every day.
Taking a Stand..Speaking up at a Rally Against the Affordable Housing Overlay Upzoning Proposal