Ward 5: Jack Perenick and Naima Sait

September 21st, 2023
housing, policy, somerville
I live in Ward 5 in Somerville, where there are two candidates running for city council this fall: Jack Perenick and Naima Sait. On Sunday both of them stopped by our neighborhood block party, and we got a chance to talk. As in 2021, the high cost of housing continues to be my primary concern for Somerville, and I asked them both what their views were.

It was clear that they both care deeply about resolving the housing crisis, and seemed like they would prioritize trying to improve the situation, but when we got into the details there were clear differences.

I talked to Jack first, and he told me he was strongly in favor of upzoning, especially along the major streets, in the squares, and around transit. His view was that allowing developers to build taller and maximizing the number of units built was our best tool for bringing prices down. He didn't think rent stabilization would work well: rents are already much too high. As we talked it became clear that the specific details of housing policy were something he had thought a lot about and where he cared about fine distinctions.

I talked to Naima later, after getting something to eat, and she was in favor of affordable housing, especially city-built, and wary of developers exploiting the community. She was very interested in tenant protections, and gave the example of rent stabilization. When I asked if what kind of stabilization she'd like to see, and she told me that there are lots of different kinds people propose before moving on to another voter.

I think which candidate is best on housing depends primarily on what policies you think would help the most. Jack's views are close to my own, and cities that have gone with upzoning have seen decreases in real rents from 2017 to 2023:

Location Nominal Real
Minneapolis MN +1% -24%
Portland OR +2% -23%
Tysons VA +4% -21%
New Rochelle NY +7% -18%
National +31% +6%
Ward 5, Somerville MA +31% +6%

Estimates for Ward 5 from comparing the estimated average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in Ward 5 between 2017-09 and 2023-09; all others are from Pew's analysis of Apartment List's rent estimates.

While I like both of them and would be happy being represented by either, I'd much rather see Jack become one of the thirteen people most responsible for directing Somerville housing policy.

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