On Monday, December 4, the Newton City Council enacted the most significant zoning reform in the City in decades. The new zoning rules will make it possible for denser multifamily housing to be built in six of Newton’s villages: Newton Centre, Newtonville, Waban, Newton Highlands, West Newton, and Auburndale. The zoning has been designed to help make the villages more vibrant, meet the great need for more, and more affordable, housing in Newton and throughout the region, and address urgent climate change concerns. Updated zoning will help the City meet the need for housing opportunities for seniors looking to downsize, small families and families just starting out, and people who serve our community.
The zoning reform will permit multifamily housing to be built in the six village centers for which it was approved. Clustering multifamily housing near transit stops in village centers is intended to help address the climate crisis. Residents with easy access to public transit and with revitalized, walkable village centers would presumably rely less on their cars. In addition, market-rate units in multifamily structures will cost less than the single-family homes that are now out of the price range of so many who wish to live in Newton. Deed-restricted affordable units are also incentivized in the plan.
The City Council’s nearly unanimous vote (21 to 2, with one councilor absent) was the culmination of a three-year process that included analysis and planning by the Zoning and Planning Committee of the City Council, public discussion and input, revisions to plans, Council debate, and compromise. The zoning package furthers the regional plan adopted through a 2021 state law, the Massachusetts Housing Choice Bill (MBTA Communities Act), and meets the December 31, 2023 deadline under that law for Newton to revise its Zoning Ordinance.