Uncontrolled Taxes


To the Editors of The Crimson:

We are always hopeful that all Cambridge City Councillors will meet issues open-mindedly. The recent Chamber of Commerce Housing Study by Herman Leonard of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government tries to start a dialogue about the city's thorniest problem, housing policy.

Councillor David Sullivan did not attend a special briefing for Councillors nor the public meeting at which the Housing Study was unveiled, yet he became an instant critic.

We commend those Councillors who took the issue seriously and made time to come to one of both meetings

There was interesting news for us all.


For the first time in the eleven years of the City's current policy, the Study attempted to find out who the people were under rent control. What was found was that tenants in controlled units came from about the same mix of economic levels as those in uncontrolled property. The result is that the City is helping some poor and elderly people but also a lot of middle-income people who don't need controls but who undoubtably are delighted to live at lower rates. (The other part of Cambridge's poor and elderly are probably being housed in either elderly or low-income housing or in their own homes.)

The Study also estimates that 5 to 10 million dollars a year is being paid in taxes by the uncontrolled sector of the City to make up for the lost taxes which rent controlled buildings cannot pay. (Rent Controlled buildings pay lower taxes because they are worth less due to their income cap. Therefore they are assessed at less and the City collects less tax from these properties). How many Cambridge tax payers are aware of the extra taxes built into their tax bill to make up for these losses?

It appears that our present policy is so broad that it is like a wide search light, covering a lot of territory all the time. We don't need such a wide beam to help needy groups. If we could narrow the beam, we could still be helpful and save energy for other purposes.

Let us start talking about really revising the policy. Barbara R. deMarneffe   Chairman, Real Estate Committee   Cambridge Chamber of Commerce