The Newton Affordable Housing Trust (NAHT) unanimously approved a transitional housing project and the allocation of funds to support 2Life Communities’ ongoing senior housing renovation at its meeting on Thursday.
FamilyAid, a local non-profit that provides housing for low-income parents and families, pitched the transitional housing project, requesting $500,000 to create 42 units of transitional affordable housing, including classrooms, offices, meeting rooms, and indoor spaces for children.
Larry Seamans, Newton resident and FamilyAid president, highlighted the current need for housing in Massachusetts and thanked the city for its support.
“This has been a very fast-track project given the tremendous number of families here in Massachusetts who need housing right now,” Seamans said. “The state has been very anxious for us to get going, and we’ve just been really delighted and so honored that the community of Newton has been so supportive.”
According to Seamans, FamilyAid will work with the state to find families in need of housing and support, whether they be in Newton or in other parts of Massachusetts, but will prioritize families from the city.
“There’s a natural prioritization, for example, of families living in Newton, so if a Newton family would become homeless, the state would look for the first vacancy available in Newton for the family,” Seamans said. “It’s on a prioritized location and kind of first in … and the state dictates who comes into a particular unit.”
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said she supports FamilyAid’s project because of how hard it is to find comprehensive family services in locations like Newton.
“We always are talking about homeless families’ supportive services in the right location, and it’s been rare to make this happen in Newton,” Fuller said. “And then there was FamilyAid, and there was Seamans … it’s actually tiny dollars for a huge impact.”
Fuller said using city money to support families that may not have a connection to Newton is not an issue, stating that the NAHT focuses on helping families in need regardless of origin.
“The City of Newton, residents, the [Community Preservation Committee (CPC)], the Affordable Housing Trust, [have] been committed to helping people no matter their country of origin, their ethnicity, their religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs, their gender identity,” Fuller said. “Anyone who is facing homeless and housing struggles … are the people that we are trying to support.”
Ann Houston, NAHT chair, said FamilyAid’s project allows Newton to do its share of helping individuals from other cities who are in need of housing or support.
“For so long, residents of Newton have had to go to other places for housing and other communities have welcomed residents of Newton, so it’s nice to be able to do our share too,” Houston said.
NAHT member Jason Korb said residents benefit from an influx of people from outside Newton because it will help to create a diverse community with different cultures, which he said is already a highlight of Newton.
“When I think about the educational experience that [my son] has in Newton schools, the social experience, who he is being exposed to, I think that this isn’t just about us giving—this is about us receiving,” Korb said. “Like that is something that’s invaluable. That’s part of the reason why I joined the trust.”
2Life Communities requested $2,547,065 for construction cost overruns of its renovation of Coleman House, which provides senior housing for residents living at or below 60 percent of the average median income (AMI) in Newton.
2Life is an organization focused on providing affordable community living for seniors in the Greater Boston area.
After deliberation, the NAHT decided to grant $1,500,000 to 2Life Communities, which emptied the trust out for the time being.
“It’s how you always think about renovation versus adding more, and what the size is that it costs to keep something in place versus add more,” NAHT CPC member Judy Weber said. “We got to add 42 units for $500,000, and we get to keep 146 for a million and a half … so it’s always that dilemma of what do you do.”
Fuller commended the work of 2Life Communities and supported allocating the trust’s remaining $1,500,000, but said the NAHT will likely not fund the remaining $1,047,065 when the trust is replenished because of a lack of necessary city funds.
“The work that the team at 2Life does is world class,” Fuller said. “I’m thrilled that the City of Newton is in a position to support you … but I urge you to look for philanthropic support.”