A Local Youth Activist Making Housing More Affordable in Cambridge

Public housing has been an issue in Cambridge for a couple of decades. A suburb on the outskirts of Boston, the cost of renting or owning a home has gotten tremendously high. Many people can’t afford to live in the city anymore, and one of the measures to increase socioeconomic diversity is public housing. Individuals and families who otherwise would not be able to live in Cambridge are allowed to live in homes and pay rent based on their income. Affordable housing is one of the main measures the city takes to help alleviate poverty. But, there are lots of opponents. 


Many don’t want public housing developments near their homes for a multitude of reasons. There are worries that home values decrease when public housing is nearby and that people who live in public housing aren’t the type of neighbors residents are looking for. While Cambridge labels itself as a progressive town, this facade is completely taken off when changes are coming to people’s own backyards. One local youth activist working against those who oppose public housing is Luke Santos. 


Luke was one of the campaign managers on Marc McGovern’s reelection committee. McGovern, a local city council member who is in favor of public housing, pushes for legislation to make Cambridge a city where all are included. Luke organized an internship for students to help canvas, phone bank, and spread McGovern’s message across Cambridge. In total, Luke had 10 students who pledged to help 6 hours each week. Weekly, Luke’s program amassed 60 hours of contributions to the campaign. Student volunteers were given an opportunity to convince voters that public housing policies were beneficial. Each day, the interns would report back explaining that they had changed someone’s mind.


The idea for this program was created by Luke himself. A strong advocate for more equity in the community, he thought helping Marc McGovern would be a worthwhile investment of his time. This decision led to the eventual reelection of McGovern. While in the city council, McGovern has stayed in touch with Luke as well as the other student interns. He understands that the power of youth voice changed minds around the city, and made it possible for him to fight for what he believes in. As for Luke, he demonstrated that a young person with a lot of passion can make a sizable difference wherever they may be.

Harold Klapper is a BOA Student Leader at Mass Mentoring Partnership.