Metro, Newton

City of Newton Receives Grant for Affordable Housing Development

The city of Newton has received a grant to make headway in turning the historic West Newton Armory into affordable housing, according to a press release from Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller. The grant, totaling $200,000, comes from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development’s Housing Choice Capital Grant Program. Out of 43 applicants, the city of Newton is one of 20 cities to receive money from the grant program.  

The grant money will not go immediately to building an affordable housing complex. Instead, the grant enables the city to conduct a pre-development analysis to see if the armory is suitable for an affordable housing establishment. 

“This is going to allow us to thoroughly examine the possibility of creating much-needed affordable housing at the West [Newton] Armory,” Fuller said in a written statement. “I’m thankful that the Department of Housing and Community Development gave us this significant grant, and I [am] looking forward to seeing where the process takes us.”

The layout and historical significance of the armory pose a challenge for development into affordable housing, according to the press release. To properly preserve the armory historically and environmentally, the city needs expert analysis. If approved for development, the Planning Department will work with a consultant team to analyze the challenges and determine the feasibility of the project. 

Fuller has docketed a request for the City Council to accept the grant and begin analysis. 

Currently, the City Council’s Real Property Reuse Committee and the Joint Advisory Planning Group (JAPG) are tasked with identifying a use for the armory. Should the Real Property Reuse Committee and the JAPG identify the armory as a suitable location for an affordable housing project, the city of Newton will purchase the armory for $1. 

Fuller proposed to convert the armory into affordable housing in May 2019, according to The Boston Globe. The proposal and continued efforts to redevelop the armory come amid other efforts to build more affordable housing units in Newton. The city completed a housing project on Austin Street, which includes 23 affordable units, in November.

The City Council passed the Northland Development Project in December. Located on Needham and Oak Streets at 156 Oak St., 275-281 Needham St., and 55 Tower Road, the Northland Development Project includes 800 total housing units, as well as office space and commercial retail space. Of the 800 units, 140 will be affordable housing units designated for Newton residents earning between 50 and 80 percent of the area’s median income.

Newton is lacking in affordable housing units, City Council President Marc Laredo previously said to The Heights. But a referendum effort organized by a group called RightSize Newton seeks to stop the development of the Northland project due to traffic concerns.

RightSize Newton collected enough signatures in December to launch the referendum, which meant that the City Council had to either rescind its zoning vote or set a special election to decide the matter, according to The Boston Globe. The Council voted not to rescind the zoning vote, and the issue was tabled until Jan. 21. 

Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / For the Heights

January 12, 2020