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Somerville YIMBY circulated a survey to candidates for mayor and city council this summer.

This year presents us with a broad array of excellent city council candidates. This guide represents our interpretation of candidate answers to our survey, which focused on housing policy, zoning, and street safety.

We have scored candidates on a scale of one 🏠 to five 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 house emoji.

A note about rent stabilization: members of Somerville YIMBY have a wide range of opinions about the usefulness of rent stabilization measures. Economic research and history show us that price controls can impede badly needed new construction. For example, Saint Paul, MN enacted a 3% maximum rent increase regulation and saw construction plummet, exacerbating their housing shortage. However, it’s also possible that a carefully crafted anti-gouging rule that applies only to older construction might still make new builds economically viable while protecting tenants from excessive increases in rent. We have indicated whether candidates support rent stabilization, but their support or lack thereof has not affected their overall score.

Incumbents are indicated with an asterisk*


We have no endorsements to share in this year’s mayoral race.

Katjana Ballantyne*

Mayor Ballantyne did not respond to our survey.

William “Billy” Tauro

Billy Tauro responded to our survey, but with answers to another survey entirely, and after promising to correct this & respond to ours, never did.

Councilor At-large

ENDORSE: Willie Burnley Jr* 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 (4/5)

Councilor Burnley has proven to be an effective leader during his time in office. While we disagree with him about the usefulness of privately-funded homebuilding, experience has shown us that he is serious, dedicated, and well-informed. He is a strong ally on zoning, public and affordable housing, tenant protections, and street safety. Notably, he was an early supporter for an important project at 299 Broadway (the old Star Market site) to create hundreds of new homes, with nearly half of them deed-restricted affordable. He has also introduced a policy order to begin to eliminate parking mandates citywide, a key step in keeping housing costs low and reducing CO2 emissions.

He supports strong tenant protections. He also supports rent stabilization.

Read Councilor Burnley Jr’s full survey response.

Charlotte Kelly*

Councilor Kelly did not return our survey.

Wilfred “Will” Mbah 🏠 🏠 🏠 (3/5)

Former Councilor Mbah had very strong, specific responses to our survey. We know from his prior time on the council that he is dedicated, caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable. However, he has also stated that new market-rate construction won’t help solve the housing crisis, and his current campaign website suggests that we should increase the percentage of new construction that must be affordable. While well-intentioned, we believe that an increase in those requirements would be counterproductive by making it more difficult to finance construction of new homes of any kind in the city.

He supports strong tenant protections. He is not opposed to rent stabilization, but is more interested in other ways of maintaining affordability.

Read Mr. Mbah’s full survey responses.

ENDORSE: Kristen Strezo* 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 (4/5)

Councilor Strezo had strong responses to our survey. Along with former Councilor Connolly, she noted that the city planning and permitting offices are understaffed, and that those failures can cause expensive delays in building new homes, even when our regulations do not. As someone who lives in deed-restricted affordable housing herself, she knows how important it is to provide stable housing, especially for families with children. Her ideas about educating landlords about Section 8 could be a useful way to slow displacement without an enormous cost to the city. She supports strong tenant protections. She also supports rent stabilization.

Read Councilor Strezo’s full survey respones

ENDORSE: Jake Wilson* 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 (5/5)

Councilor Wilson had very strong, detailed responses to our survey. His tireless advocacy for the 299 Broadway (former Star Market) redevelopment helped turn it into the excellent proposal that it is today, featuring 288 new homes, 132 of them permanently affordable. We look forward to more of his work in the future.

He supports strong tenant protections. He also supports rent stabilization.

Read Councilor Wilson’s full survey responses.

Ward 1

Matthew Hunt 🏠 🏠 (2/5)

Mr. Hunt’s responses to our survey, while generally good, did not have the depth or specificity we would have liked.

He stated that tenant protections were valuable, but did not specify whether he supported rent stabilization.

Read Mr. Hunt’s full survey responses.

ENDORSE: Matt McLaughlin* 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 (5/5)

Councilor McLaughlin has demonstrated real leadership on housing and urban development during his term on council and is an excellent choice for reelection. He’s working on some very promising zoning map changes for areas near transit, and we hope to continue to see great work from him in the coming years.

He supports strong tenant protections. He also supports rent stabilization.

Read Councilor McLaughlin’s full survey responses.

Ward 2

JT Scott*

Councilor Scott is running unopposed and did not return our survey.

Ward 3

ENDORSE: Ben Ewen-Campen* 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 (5/5)

As he noted in his response, Councilor Ewen-Campen may be the only councilor to successfully bring an upzoning petition to his ward. He’s a big believer in figuring out policies that work, and we appreciate his pragmatic leadership on the council. His commitment to street safety, including fixing Highland Avenue as soon as possible, is also a major plus.

He supports strong tenant protections. He also supports rent stabilization.

Read Councilor Ewen-Campen’s full survey responses.

John Fitzpatrick

Mr. Fitzpatrick did not return our survey.

Ward 4

Jesse Clingan*

Councilor Clingan is running unopposed and did not return our survey. He did share this via email to us:

“Apologies for not getting to the survey, I have a lot going on right now. That said, I appreciate the work that you all have done and continue to do. I’m definitely a proponent of up-zoning, especially along all main corridors in Somerville and transit nodes. Look forward to working with you all on future proposals/ideas.”

Ward 5

Ward 5 may have been our most difficult scoring decision. Both candidates are well-informed and dedicated, and both campaigns have volunteers who are members of Somerville YIMBY. Ultimately, both have very strong housing policy positions, and voters may need to base their decisions on other factors.

ENDORSE: Jack Perenick 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 (5/5)

Mr. Perenick is a member of Somerville YIMBY. His survey responses were thoughtful and detailed, and we know from his work for outgoing councilor Beatriz Gómez Mouakad that he’s devoted to street safety as well. He is young, but his experience as a Democratic Party volunteer, and his impressively detailed knowledge of Ward 5 and the minutiae of City Council processes would serve him well on the council.

He supports strong tenant protections. He has spoken out against rent stabilization, which he says would backfire by reducing the creation of new housing.

Read Mr. Perenick’s full survey responses.

ENDORSE: Naima Sait 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 (5/5)

Ms. Sait’s survey responses were thoughtful and detailed, and we know from her work in the Somerville Public Schools that she is dedicated and deeply informed about the needs of the community. She’s got a number of very achievable ideas for ways that Somerville could increase the availability of housing near transit. Affordable, stable housing is a top priority for her.

She supports strong tenant protections. She also supports rent stabilization.

Read Ms. Sait’s full survey responses.

Ward 6

John “Jack” Connolly 🏠 🏠 🏠 (3/5)

While we appreciate Former Councilor Connolly’s affirmative responses to our survey, his past actions contradict them. He has previously spoken out against density, bus lanes, bike lanes, and reduced parking requirements, and we don’t have sufficient reason to believe he’s actually changed his views on these issues. We appreciate his note (shared with Councilor Strezo) that the city planning and permitting offices are understaffed, creating a non-regulatory barrier to construction.

He is not opposed to rent stabilization, but is more interested in other ways of managing housing costs.

Read Mr. Connolly’s full survey responses.

ENDORSE: Lance Davis* 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 (4/5)

As one of the original sponsors of the Affordable Housing Overlay, we know that Councilor Davis is an ally on affordable housing. He’s also strong on housing growth throughout the city, and well aware of the tradeoffs required to test, improve, and update our regulations, including in Davis Square. He was the ward councilor when the 2019 zoning was implemented, and has identified a number of ways it could be improved, especially in Davis Square. We were also impressed by his insights into how changes to roads, bike lanes, and parking could be ordered and communicated better.

He is in favor of strong tenant protections, including rent stabilization.

Read Councilor Davis’s full survey responses.

Ward 7

ENDORSE: Judy Pineda Neufeld* 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 🏠 (5/5)

Councilor Pineda-Neufeld’s responses to our survey emphasized both affordability and accessibility, and her support for new housing near transit will be important for both affordability and climate resilience. We also appreciate that even though she is running unopposed, she answered our survey anyway.

She supports strong tenant protections including just-cause eviction rules and right to counsel, but did not mention rent stabilization among them. One interesting note she made was that she would also explore ways to incentivize landlords to keep rents moderate.

Read Councilor Pineda Neufeld’s full survey responses.

If you’ve read all the way through, thanks for taking the time! We hope this is a helpful resource, and we welcome any feedback you might have at