Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the City of Cambridge Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay?

A: The goal of the City’s “100% Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay” is to help affordable housing developers, using public funds, create new affordable units more quickly, more cost effectively, and in areas where there are fewer affordable housing options for residents. Affordable housing developers often cannot compete with market-rate developers who can afford to pay more for land and buildings. There are also areas of the city where current zoning makes the creation of new affordable housing infeasible. Allowing affordable housing providers to build more densely than market-rate developers will create opportunities in these neighborhoods. Affordable housing developers have also faced long and costly permitting challenges delaying their ability to complete new affordable units. Streamlining the approval process for new 100%-affordable housing will help reduce development costs and allow affordable housing providers to create new affordable units more quickly while using public funding more effectively. More information on the City’s initiative can be found here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Housing/affordablehousingoverlay.

 

Q: What does the Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay ordinance say?

A: The ordinance approved by the Cambridge City Council in October 2020 can be found here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/Housing/Overlay/zngamend_aho_designguidelines_20200728v2.pdf.

 

Q: How is the Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay being implemented in Cambridge?

A: Projects being pursued under the initiative are described here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/housing/housingdevelopment/aho.

 

Q: What are design guidelines for developments proposed under the Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay?

A: The design guidelines established by the City can be found here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/Housing/Overlay/zngamend_aho_designguidelines_20200728v2.pdf.

Q: How does the Walden Square development qualify under the new ordinance?

A: The ordinance allows incremental increases in density, limited increases in height, and relaxation of certain other zoning limitations for residential developments in which all units are made permanently affordable to households earning up to 100% of Area Median Income. The proposed development meets all the standards set forth in the ordinance.

Q: Where will the proposed project be built?

A: It is being built on the site of the Walden Square Apartments, a successful affordable housing complex in North Cambridge that is owned and operated by WinnCompanies.

Q: Why is this project being proposed?

A: This project is being proposed to increase the affordable housing available to individuals and families who want to live in Cambridge. Walden Square Apartments currently has a waiting list of more than 900 households that would like to live there.

Q: What is the proposed unit mix for this project?

A: The current design of the building plans for 103 total units with nine (9) studio units, five (5) one-bedroom units, 45 two-bedroom units, 35 three-bedroom units, and nine (9) four-bedroom units. The unit count and mix are subject to change during the design process for the building.

Q: Will the entire ground level of the new building will consist of parking spaces and a drive aisle?

A: Yes. The proposed building will be built over the existing drive aisle on the north of the development site. The ground level will be open air, with some screening for aesthetic purposes, and preserve the current drive aisle while reconfiguring the parking to maximize new head-in spaces.

Q: Will the new building permit emergency vehicle access underneath it?

A: Yes. Emergency vehicle access will be maintained through Walden Square Road. The current design allows for emergency vehicle access to the Walden site by passing underneath the building. The Development Team will continue to consult with the required public safety authorities to ensure that we meet or exceed all life-safety criteria.

 

Q: What days of the week and times of the day will construction work occur?

A: Construction times will follow what is allowable under city ordinance.

Q: How many elevators are planned for the new building?

A: The current design of the building plans for two elevators, as well as accessibility for the disabled.

Q: What are the parking requirements for the new building under the Affordable Housing Overlay?

A: The Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay does not require off-street parking. The current proposal calls for approximately 25 new parking spaces to be added to the site when this project is complete.

Q: Are there green aspects to this building?

A: The project will be designed, constructed, and operated in a sustainable manner. The project is designed to Passive Housing Institute US (PHIUS) standards, including super-insulation, energy-efficient appliances and lighting fixtures, low flow water fixtures, and superior air sealing. In addition, a small solar panel array is planned for the roof to generate a portion of the building’s own electric supply.

Q: How will the current trees on the site be impacted by the proposed building?

A: The construction effort will preserve as many of the existing trees as possible. Trees that need to be removed will be replaced in accordance with guidelines set forth by the City of Cambridge.  

Q: What benefits will this development bring to the larger neighborhood?

A: The proposed building will increase the inclusivity of the neighborhood and will add much-needed affordable housing for families in the community. In addition, the neighborhood will benefit from proposed site improvements that create stronger, safer pedestrian and bicycle connectivity between Raymond Street, the Yerxa Underpass, Bolton Street and Sherman Street.

Q: Who will manage the new building? 

A: Once completed, the building will be managed by WinnResidential, the property management arm of WinnCompanies. WinnResidential has managed the Walden Square property for 20 years.

Q: I have read reviews complaining about maintenance at Walden Square Apartments. Do those reviews indicate the property is badly managed?

A: No. WinnResidential, the property manager, takes all resident concerns seriously and responds quickly to reported maintenance issues in order of priority. Some current and former residents have gone online to post both negative and positive reviews over the years. However, all Walden Square residents receive anonymous satisfaction surveys at least once a year to rate various aspects of the property on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best possible score. In the most recent surveys conducted during 2021, respondents gave maintenance of the property an average score of 4.67 out of 5. In 2020, the average maintenance score was 4.44 out of 5. In 2019, the average maintenance score was 4.55. WinnCompanies has recently invested in new roofs and HVAC systems to address prior infrastructure issues. Overall, Walden Square residents have scored WinnResidential's management of the property in the mid to high 4s during the past three years. 

Q: What is the public process for this development?

A: Three community meetings have been held as part of this process so far, in addition to tours of the development site for residents and neighbors. The Development Team is taking into consideration all of the feedback it has received and is revising the proposal to address ideas and issues, whenever possible. In mid- to late June, an application will be filed with the Cambridge Planning Board, which will schedule meetings later this summer.

Q: Where can I find the presentations that have been made to the community so far?

A: The three presentations made to the community on March 23, April 13 and May 27 can be found at: https://www.waldensquare2.com/about-3.