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 single-family home nearly doubled between 2003 and 2016, from $638,000 to $1,100,000.
From 2000 to 2013, we lost 4,700 households with annual incomes of less than $125,000, and gained 4,200 households earning more than $200,000.
Over 75% of our homes are either single-family (55%) or two- and three-family (21.3%) houses.
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.
We have 2,425 deed-restricted homes for low- to moderate-income households (earning up to 80% of AMI)—and 8,105 eligible households (see 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%) (see 2019 Greater Boston Housing Report Card).
Most of these numbers come from the
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.
Livable Newton membership fluctuates, depending on the project or issue at hand, but has included Green Newton, Bike Newton, Progressive Newton, the Newton-Needham Chamber, the League of Women Voters of Newton, and JALSA (Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action).
We meet as a group once a month at the Union Church in Waban. Our current steering committee consists of Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Tamara Bliss, Nanci Ginty Butler, Nadine Cohen, Fran Godine, Candace Havens, Kathleen Hobson, Judy Jacobson, Marcia Johnson, Frank Laski, Kevin McCormick, Sue Parsons, Doris Ann Sweet, Jay Walter, Lynn Weissberg, and Nancy Zollers. Go here for more on our beliefs, understanding, and intentions.