September 24, 2019
Newton City Council
Land Use Committee
Newton City Hall
Dear Chairman Schwartz and Members of the Land Use Committee,
The League of Women Voters of Newton (LWVN) supports the proposed Northland project because it leverages underutilized space that offers substantial improvements for Newton residents. With this development we will be able to work towards our common goals of increasing housing diversity; mitigating the use of cars; creating new recreational open space; encouraging walking, biking, and use of the Greenway; attracting new shops, restaurants, and other kinds of employers and increasing our commercial tax base.
In the Globe article NIMBY? Not in these cities and towns Watertown, our neighbor, was cited as an example “In Watertown, which permitted 1,296 housing units in the four-year period, Community Development and Planning director Steve Magoon credited the town’s regulatory and elected boards with making the tough decisions needed to allow projects to go forward”. We believe that Newton should also continue to step up to address the housing crisis in the metro Boston area.
The Newton City Council over the past few years made the difficult decisions to approve both the Austin Street and Washington Place projects. With the Northland project, the City Council of 2018-2019 once again has the opportunity to make another tough decision and do the right thing by approving this development.
Northland’s proposal will provide a diversity of housing options that Newton needs, with an alternative to single-family homes, which many people – from young professionals, to seniors looking to downsize, to people who work in Newton – are looking for but cannot find right now.
- It will increase the housing supply overall and provide much-needed affordable units.
- With the newest proposal, 17.5% of the units will be affordable, producing 140 new affordable units, including 120 of affordable units at a blended 65% of AMI and 20 units of work-force housing for persons at 80 to 110% of AMI
The developer is committed to sustainability and is working with Green Newton to maximize environmentally-friendly features, including those listed below.
- Passive House design in three buildings, exploration of Passive House design in the five remaining residential buildings and LEED for Neighborhood Development certifiability throughout.
- The development will create new connections to the Greenway, plant 600 new trees, and will include 10 acres of active open-space available for public use.
And finally, the project will generate increased tax revenue for the City.
Overall, the combination of increased housing diversity, environmentally-friendly design, added green space, and additional tax income provide an opportunity that LWVN encourages the City Council to support.
President, League of Women Voters, Newton
New developments with 21 or more units of housing in Newton will now have to provide more units of permanently affordable “workforce” housing. The definition of “workforce” housing is that it is affordable to households earning greater than 80% and up to 110% of the area median income (AMI). In Newton, ahousehold of four at 80% of the AMI could earn up to $89,000, and at 110%, could earn up to $124,630. The amended Inclusionary Zoning ordinance was drafted by the Newton Planning and Development Department, edited in many meetings by the City Council and passed unanimously by the City Council on Monday night. The amendment still requires that new developments of 7 units or more provide 15% of its units at prices/rents that are affordable to households earning 50% to 80% of the AMI. The new amendment requires an additional 2.5% of the units to be set aside at affordable prices/rents for “workforce” households that earn from 80% to 110% of the AMI.
Beginning in January 2021, all projects with 100 units or more will be required to provide 15% affordable units, and an additional 5% for “workforce” housing, or a total of 20% affordable units altogether. Newton’s housing is pricey and increasingly unaffordable for many households of all types and income levels. The amendment helps provide more options for people of all means to live in our City.
Mayor’s Update July 11, 2019
I’m excited to write to you as Chair of the City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee (ZAP) to inform you about the important work our committee is doing regarding zoning changes in Newton. What is zoning? Zoning is the way governments control the physical development of our city. For example, it governs areas where we can have residences of various types, as well as commercial, manufacturing and mixed-use buildings. It also governs the use of properties throughout the city as well as the size of buildings on these properties.
Why does Newton need new zoning?
The City Council’s efforts to reform zoning began with the work of a group of citizens tasked by Mayor Warren and (then) Board of Alderman to develop a plan for reforming Newton’s outdated zoning ordinance. Our ordinance has not been comprehensively reviewed since 1953. In 2011, this group produced a report reflecting citizens commonly voiced concerns such as;
- Why are there so many teardowns?
- Why should people be allowed to build “McMansions” that come so close to my home?
- What can we do to make sure my daughter can afford to live in Newton when she starts looking for a home?
- Why aren’t there any options for places to live in Newton when I can no longer take care of my big home where I raised my family?
- How can we keep our villages full of shoppers with a vibrant mix of shops?
- How can we manage parking and traffic?
- How can we channel growth that we need to thrive and advance to appropriate areas of our city?
- How can we preserve the character of our neighborhoods?
- How can Newton contribute to climate change mitigation?
At a recent Newton-Needham Regional Chamber event, speakers addressed the topics of diverse and affordable housing, as well as transportation and climate change. The latter speaker was Robin Chase, an American transportation entrepreneur. She is co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar as well as founder and former CEO of Buzzcar, a peer-to-peer car sharing service, acquired by Drivy. Watch the comments here: