Cambridge public housing agreement will be signed

MD-City budget

Dorchester Banner/Gloria Rojas
Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley and Frank Cooke at the recent council meeting.

CAMBRIDGE — The federal deadline hanging over Cambridge will be met. On April 17, all four parties to the RAD agreement that allows private investors to enter into the public housing sector in Cambridge will be signatories. The renovation of 190 units, housing 600 people, can begin in earnest.

At the previous Council meeting, it was clear that three of the participants, 1. HUD (the federal government,) 2. CHA (the Cambridge Housing Authority) and 3. DDG (District Development Group) over a three-year period had hammered out a deal requiring a lot of negotiating and meticulous form-filling. The fourth party, our own City Council had not signed and in a meeting marked by dissension, the majority voted not to approve unless additional audits and language to protect Cambridge interests were submitted.

It was done, and with an additional mountain of audits and paperwork plus an extra week of study time, the City Commissioners indicated at a second work session they are now on board. They have extracted an agreement of payments of a higher PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) to $50,000 and the builder (DDG) renewed pledges to pay the current arrears for utilities and the PILOT for three missing years.

Many residents can feel reassured they will not lose their homes, the builder, Andy Botticello, whose company has a track record in this kind of enterprise, is relieved; and the Commissioners seem satisfied and have scheduled the final vote for Monday’s meeting, in time to beat the federal April 17 deadline. (Rules do not allow the council to vote in a work session.) Some are calling the RAD agreement a win-win situation. One observer called it “a lottery ticket,” with unexpected money coming in.

To digress, if you don’t stir the pot, stuff might settle to the bottom unexamined.  Commissioner Frank Cooke sees his role in the controversy that ensued as a “pot-stirrer.”  He sent out the initial e-mail that reached residents, other taxpayers, and journalists. The email had some misinformation and alarming foreclosure possibilities which were wrong, but once the pot was stirred, it forced everyone, residents and taxpayers who had been unaware, to check RAD more thoroughly.

Commissioner Cooke led an informal educational session at the library last Thursday and, with the help of Carlton Stanley, board chairperson of the Cambridge Housing Authority, informed listeners of what he had learned about the complexities of the RAD deal. Commissioner Cooke has been accused of caring more about money than people, but on his own time, in his tennis clothes, (he’s the high school tennis coach) he came to the library to communicate with people what he had learned about RAD. What we also learned is that the council needs to improve its own inter-council communications. The council’s vote on RAD is scheduled for April 13, when it meets at 7 p.m.

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