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Recent MIT graduate Burhan Azeem, is making his first bid for Cambridge City Council this fall, focusing his campaign on affordable housing and sustainable transportation.
Azeem is the youngest candidate running for office at 22 years old, but his campaign website and social media argue his experience with housing issues and environmental research have prepared him for the role.
Born in Pakistan, Azeem came to the United States with his family when he was four. Growing up, Azeem and eleven family members lived together in a three-bedroom apartment. Azeem wrote in a Medium article that he believes his childhood experience played an important role in shaping his views on promoting affordable housing in Cambridge.
“We moved many times when I was young and it took years for us to find stable housing,” he wrote. “I understand the housing crisis on a visceral level and am devoted to fighting it.”
Azeem did not agree to be interviewed for this article.
His website also calls for greater representation of tenants in Cambridge on the council.
Beyond addressing housing issues, Azeem’s platform includes a pledge to promote sustainable housing and transportation policy if he is elected. Azeem earned a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering and his campaign touts his first-hand experience studying climate change at MIT as useful preparation for developing climate policy in Cambridge.
“I understand sustainability,” Azeem wrote in another Medium article. “I have built solar panels and batteries, studied the cause of our climate crisis, and took it to the heart becoming a biker and a pescatarian.”
Azeem has previously pointed to housing and transportation as ways for Cambridge to curb climate change.
“In the most direct sense, housing policy is climate policy,” Azeem said in an interview with the Tech, MIT’s student newspaper. “We need to build more housing and build it greener.”
Azeem has also called for Cambridge to invest in different types of sustainable transportation, including through improved sidewalk maintenance and increased public transit capacity.
His platform also focuses on social and economic justice, along with technological development.
Azeem told the Tech he wants to encourage civic engagement and increase youth participation in local politics. Azeem said he believes young voters will play a major role in the upcoming election.
“[Cambridge] is one of the youngest cities in the U.S., but except for one person [on City Council], almost everyone else is around age 50 or older,” he said. “It’s incredibly skewed towards this population, and it’s because young people don’t vote or get elected or run.”
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