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Cambridge Lauds Data-Driven Governance, Affordable Housing in Annual Report

Per an annual report, the City of Cambridge spent $25.5 million to support individuals, families, small businesses, the arts, and nonprofit partners during the pandemic.
Per an annual report, the City of Cambridge spent $25.5 million to support individuals, families, small businesses, the arts, and nonprofit partners during the pandemic. By Thomas Maisonneuve

The City of Cambridge highlighted its national recognition for excellence in data-driven local governance and its work to improve housing affordability, boost access to economic and educational opportunities, and combat the Covid-19 pandemic in a combined 2020-21 fiscal year report issued late last month.

The report notes that Cambridge was recognized this year as one of the top American cities at using data and evidence to improve residents’ lives with the What Works Cities Certification — an assessment of how well cities are managed by measuring the extent to which the city leaders use data and evidence in their decision-making processes.

According to the report, Cambridge is now one of only 13 Gold Certified cities in the country.

“This certification represents years of hard work from departments big and small throughout the City to use data to better serve the public,” Josh Wolff, Cambridge’s data analytics and open data program manager, said in the report.

The report includes a special feature on Covid-19 as the City had to divert much of its attention in the last year to the unprecedented global health crisis.

Following its declaration of a public health emergency on March 19, 2020, the city activated its Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund and created a new Housing Stabilization Fund to support residents financially throughout the pandemic.

According to the report, as of June 30 of this year, the city had spent a total of $25.5 million to support individuals, families, small businesses, the arts sector, and nonprofit partners during the pandemic.

In addition to the Covid-19 measures, the City Council prioritized increasing access to affordable housing, ensuring equal economic and educational opportunities, and strengthening the city’s commitment to using sustainable energy.

Since 2001, the City has allocated more than $246 million to invest in affordable housing initiatives, the report stated. The funding has been used to preserve or create more than 3,095 affordable housing units, including Finch Cambridge, St. Patrick’s Place, Frost Terrace, Squirrelwood Apartments, and other housing complexes.

The City also invested $500 million in three new school facilities in recent years: the Martin Luther King Jr. and Putnam Avenue Upper Schools, King Open and Cambridge Street Upper Schools and Community Complex — both of which are now complete — and the Tobin Montessori and Vassal Lane Upper School.

The King Open School, which opened in late 2019, was designed to be the first near-Net Zero Emissions School in Massachusetts.

In fiscal year 2021, the city began rezoning two major sites: Canal District Kendall near the Longfellow Bridge and the site of the current MXD Substation in Kendall Square. Rezoning of these locations will lead to increased benefits such as an arts and cultural center, a winter market, and new affordable homes, according to the report.

Cambridge also continued its implementation of its Urban Forestry Initiative, which enables the city to expand the urban forest canopy, reduce the urban heat island effect, and be more proactive about climate change. Within the past two fiscal years, the city has planted 827 trees in public areas.

—Staff writer Mayesha R. Soshi can be reached at mayesha.soshi@thecrimson.com.

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