Metro, Newton

Engine 6 Newton Housing Advocates Works Toward Increasing Housing Affordability in the City

Since its founding in 2013, Engine 6 Newton Housing Advocates has dedicated itself to increasing accessibility to affordable, inclusive housing in Newton.

“We want to expand housing opportunities in Newton because we want Newton to be a more welcoming city to people of all ages, economic levels, backgrounds, etc.,” Lynne Weissberg, a member of Engine 6’s leadership team, said.

According to Engine 6’s website, Newton residents founded the organization after former Newton Mayor Setti Warren refused funding for a Metro West Collaborative Development affordable housing project for the Engine 6 firehouse, which would have housed nine chronically homeless individuals. 

Now, Engine 6 focuses on advocating for projects and policies that increase general housing availability in Newton, according to Weissberg.

“We lobby our city council to approve specific proposals to build more housing,” Weissberg said. “We’ve also been involved in some changes to laws, like Newton’s Inclusionary Zoning law and Newton’s accessory dwelling law.”

Nancy Zollers, a member of Engine 6’s leadership team, said the cost of housing in Newton makes it hard for children who grew up in the city to find housing in the area once they stop living with their parents. 

“[My] adult children had to move to Waltham … they’re one of the many, many post-college students who couldn’t stay,” Zollers said.

Engine 6 also prioritizes sustainability in its projects, specifically focusing on how public transportation accessibility and greater housing density help minimize carbon emissions.

“New types of housing in Newton will help create more walkable, vibrant villages which reduce the burden on our environment,” its website reads. “Allowing more people to live in Newton near transit compared with distant suburbs is critical for addressing climate change.”

Weissberg said that restrictive zoning laws have been a significant challenge for Engine 6 projects. According to Newton City Council’s website, it has been over 60 years since Newton’s current zoning code underwent significant changes, resulting in outdated laws inhibiting the expansion of the city.

“There is this zoning proposal before the council,” Weissberg said. “We certainly hope it will pass, and we think it would be taking a big step toward making Newton a more welcoming, open, and inclusive city.”

According to Zollers, Engine 6 also endorses local politicians who share its views on sustainability and housing affordability in Newton.

“We endorse based on housing views and we have chosen the candidates who are most likely to do the hard work, the courageous work of creating housing for more people to live in Newton,” Zollers said.

Zollers shared the testimony of an Engine 6 project resident, Peter Marquart, who expressed his gratitude for the project.

It has been like a dream,” Marquart said. “If you had told me six months ago that I would be here now, I never would have believed you.”

November 5, 2023