Read Jeff's Guest Column In The Cambridge Chronicle: "Cambridge Can Be National Leader In Rent-to-Own"

Posted Oct 24, 2017

My name is Jeff Santos, candidate for City Council and a resident of East Cambridge. There is an opportunity for Cambridge to lead the region, and perhaps the country, in affordable housing. We can make the MIT area the model for “rent to own.” The proposed 1,400 units at Volpe/MIT present a unique opportunity for the citizens of Cambridge who want to stay in Cambridge long term but cannot afford the current market prices for a single-family home or a condo.

Building off the new affordable housing standards of 20 percent for rental units, I am proposing that one floor (12 units) would be a subset of the affordable housing, with a one-bedroom apartment renting for $2,000 a month (the average price for a one-bedroom today in Cambridge), or $2,500 for a two-bedroom. If the tenants pass their credit check, pay their rent on time and are good citizens of the building, they should be able to own that unit in year two and pay a mortgage at the same price as their first year of rent.

If this plan is enacted it will do three things:

1. It will allow working-class and middle-class citizens of Cambridge to stay in Cambridge, and open the door for others who want to build mixed-use or rental units in the city to understand that they have to contribute to the middle class of the city.

2. The city of Cambridge will add more individuals to the property tax rolls.

3. The owners of the building (MIT) will be looked at in a positive light as contributing to reducing the economic gap between the very wealthy and those who struggle every day to pay rent.

Cambridge can become a national leader in rent-to-own, and open the door for millions of people who are trying to find a way to just get by whether it be in an apartment or condo.

If MIT and its team decide to fight this idea, they will be missing a golden opportunity to be pioneers lauded as taking a leading role in the community -- a role in which others can follow. If developers would like to come to Cambridge they should understand they can make a sizeable profit but they cannot contribute to the economic divide in this city and other metropolitan areas.

If I am elected, Cambridge will be a city that leaves no citizen behind regardless of how much money they have in their bank account.

Jeff Santos, a Third Street resident, is a nationally syndicated talk host who is currently a candidate for Cambridge City Council.