Achieving Housing Affordability in Newton
The status quo of housing in our city does not work for Newton residents, preventing us from combatting shortages, segregation, and climate change. But it more clearly fails those who want to live here. Our city also has an longstanding history of residential segregation which we must confront, specifically the construction of the Mass Pike in 1962 through our city’s historically Black neighborhood. To live up to the ideal that “Newton’s strength derives from being a welcoming and inclusive community,” we must change our housing rules and stock for the 21st century.
We must invest in affordable housing options.
Currently, over 76% of low-income households and 56% of moderate-income households in Newton pay more than 30% of their income toward housing. This pushes young people and senior citizens out of Newton, stifling the vibrancy of our community centers and optimism for our future. We must also fill the “missing middle” in Newton and offer different types of homes: apartment, town, single-family, and multi-family. We must invest in affordable housing to accommodate every household, from buyers and families with children to renters and elderly residents. I also strongly support the creation of a municipal housing trust in Newton to invest in affordable housing options.
A critical component to ensuring that the affordable housing we build translates into a more socioeconomically and racially diverse city is significantly reducing our local preference allocation for affordable units in our community, under which 70% of affordable units are reserved for those currently residing in Newton. By reducing our local preference and investing in affordable and accessible housing and transportation across our city, we can begin to chip away at the decades-long history of residential segregation and exclusion that has led to our current housing crisis.
2. We need comprehensive zoning redesign to ensure that we can add multi-family and affordable housing options to our city.
In order to increase both the stock and variety of our housing, I support zoning requirements that enable us to build diverse housing options and multi-family homes, especially around our transit and village centers. We should also work to make it easier for the permitting and construction of affordable developments and incentivizing those who specialize in affordable projects to build here. Our city’s ongoing redesign of our zoning ordinance is an opportunity not just for the creation of more housing options, but to engage our entire city in determining how we want to make that a reality.
3. Let’s make environmentally sustainable and transit-oriented housing a reality.
As we work to make Newton a more walkable and sustainable city, there is immense opportunity to increase our affordable housing options and center them around our MBTA stations and village centers. This housing can serve folks who primarily bike and/or do not own a car. Through transit-oriented affordable housing, we will increase transit usage, reduce traffic congestion, and make Newton a more diverse, healthy, and welcoming place. Taking advantage of mixed-use housing is key in our village centers, by enabling us to expand our commercial tax base while subsidizing the creation of affordable units with neighboring market-rate units to increase our city's housing supply.
I am also in favor of incorporating solar, passive housing, and green space within these developments to enhance their sustainability and lower heating and cooling costs. Newton has the opportunity to become a leader in housing policy and serve as an inspiration to cities throughout the Commonwealth.
As we work toward these sustainable goals, I will also advocate for universal design in public green spaces and housing. I will work with our disabled neighbors to ensure that these spaces are accessible for all members of our community.
4. We should explore and incorporate as many highly affordable projects as we can into our housing stock to support low-income residents.
To support low-income families, residents who are coming out of domestic violence shelters or who have been formerly unhoused, it is crucial that our affordable housing approach includes projects such as the West Newton Armory or Haywood House, which are aimed specifically at providing housing to residents who cannot afford to pay fifty or sixty percent of Area Median Income (AMI).
It is also crucial that we don't just build housing, but that we build homes. When we build new affordable housing in our community, especially housing that is geared towards low-income residents, that we connect those residents to important social services, such as job training programs and wellness checks, through dedicated service funds supported by the developer or partnerships with local organizations.