Welcome to Engine 6
Advocates for fair, affordable,
diverse, and abundant housing
in Newton, MA
Weekly planning-related meeting info & and project updates, including agendas and Zoom links for meetings of these committees (which may now also meet in person):
See the Friday Packet for meeting materials.
Like other cities and towns in Metro Boston, Newton suffers from a severe housing shortage. We want to be a welcoming and livable city, but people of all ages, backgrounds, and occupations are struggling to keep or find a home here. Our adult children can't afford to live here. People who work here can't afford to move here. Seniors can't afford to stay.
A combination of factors—high land prices, restrictive zoning, an unpredictable, often lengthy permitting process, neighborhood opposition to new multifamily development—is making it very hard to build the kind of housing we need.
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Some Newton Housing Facts
The median sales price for a detached single-family house has increased 70% in the past 10 years, from $737,750 to $1,260,000.
Compared with 2010, Newton in 2019 had 4,200 fewer households with annual incomes of less than $100,000, and 3,800 more households with annual incomes greater than $200,000.
Only 27% of our school employees live in Newton.
Over 30% of households—including over 75% of low-income residents—are cost-burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on housing.
Only half of the 449 households with portable housing vouchers administered by the Newton Housing Authority were actually able to find a home in Newton.
76% of “developable” land in Newton is zoned for residential use, and on 80% of that, only detached single-family houses can be built “by right,” without a special permit.
We have 2,425 deed-restricted homes for low- to moderate-income households (earning up to 80% of AMI)—but almost 3.5 times that many (8,105) eligible households (see 2019 Newton income limits and max affordable rents).
We are less racially diverse than Massachusetts as a whole: Only 3.1% of our population is Black or African-American (vs. state's 6.7%), and only 5.5% is Hispanic or Latino (vs. state's 11.2%).
We are only permitting 20.6% of the housing we should, relative to our proportional need. This is in contrast to Boston (109.8%), Cambridge (78.1%), Somerville (46.8%), and Watertown (131.5%).
WHO WE ARE
Engine 6 is a voluntary association of residents of Newton, MA, who advocate for fair, affordable, and diverse housing—in abundance. We seek to hold City government accountable to its own planning and housing pledges and to all fair housing and civil rights laws. We consider ourselves part of the nationwide YIMBY movement, and are affiliated with other local YIMBY groups (e.g., A Better Cambridge, Somerville YIMBY) through the Abundant Housing MA coalition.
We formed in June of 2013 to support the conversion of the former Engine 6 firehouse on Beacon Street in Waban into housing for nine chronically homeless individuals and a live-in house manager, which the City initially supported but then blocked, when neighborhood opposition heated up. Since then, there has been no end of work for us, as multifamily housing development has continued to face opposition wherever it is proposed.
We advocate for well-conceived housing proposals and land-use policies, and push back when we think a proposal or policy is not in Newton's best interest. We write letters to the Mayor, City Council, and Newton TAB, and attend meetings of the City Council committees (Zoning and Planning/ZAP, Land Use, Real Property Reuse) and the various citizen advisory boards and committees (Newton Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board, Newton Housing Partnership, Community Preservation Committee, Fair Housing Committee) that review housing proposals, often giving testimony. We also meet face to face with Councilors and other City officials, when it could be helpful.
Engine 6 is also a partner in Livable Newton, a coalition of organizations and individuals who advocate for planning and development that makes our city more inclusive, integrated, healthy, and sustainable. We want Newton to be a place where anyone can find a safe, affordable home in a walkable neighborhood close to public transportation, schools, shops, services, and recreational open space. Organizations affiliated with Livable Newton include: Green Newton, Bike Newton, Progressive Newton, the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber, CAN-DO, the Newton Community Development Foundation (NCDF), the Newton Interfaith Clergy Association (NICA), Welcoming Newton, the Newton High Performance Buildings Coalition, Newton Neighbors Helping Neighbors, and the Temple Shalom of Newton Tzedek Team. Go here for more on our beliefs, understanding, and intentions.
Engine 6 meets as a group once a month, for now via Zoom, otherwise at the Union Church in Waban. Our leadership team consists of Fran Godine, Kathleen Hobson, Doris Ann Sweet, Lynn Weissberg, and Nancy Zollers. Our steering committee includes Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Tamara Bliss, Nanci Ginty Butler, Nadine Cohen, Tom Gagen, Jason Harburger, Judy Jacobson, Marcia Johnson, Frank Laski, Kevin McCormick, Sue Parsons, and Jay Walter.