Top of the day to all,
Mayor Setti Warren has a plan to build housing in Newton. Proponents claim it’s a wonderful plan.
The plan is to build 3,200 new housing units in Newton, 800 of which will be affordable units listed on the Subsidized Housing Inventory. Affordable to whom, we do not know. To the paranoidiacs in the 14th village, Clifford says this is not code. We really have no idea who will be able to rent the units. From what we have seen so far, it will not be Newton municipal workers or blue collar Newton families.
3,200 units shared throughout the City’s eight Wards equals 400 units per ward, including 100 units of affordable housing per Ward. It sounds doable. The Comprehensive Plan has a map that shows potential locations. They happen to be at each commuter train and Green Line stop in the City. The locations are represented by large black spots. (As an aside, I heard they were donated to the City by the heirs of RLS.)
There is also a strategy to accomplish the plan. First, we eliminate the politics in our land planning by taking the Special Permit Granting Authority away from the City Council and giving it to the Mayor who will then pick the building sites and the developers. As a back up, if the City Council acts in an obstreperous way and refuses a most reasonable request to surrender its special permit granting authority we can change the charter to eliminate Ward Councilors. They are acknowledged to be most difficult and demanding in representing their constituents. We can also eliminate half the Councilors at large with a residency requirement to live in a particular Ward.
Back to the Mayor’s Plan. Is it real or fictional? The Plan calls for every fourth unit to qualify as a low income unit. Yet we have a new project in Newtonville where this goal is not achieved.
The Washington Street (Orr Building) project proposes to build 171 units, 15% of which will qualify for the Subsidized Housing Inventory (not 25%). (another aside, to maintain the status quo in the SHI we need to provide 17 low income units. The proposal is to provide 26 units, a net gain of nine units against our 800 +/- deficit. This does not look like a good deal to me, particularly when I am told that 22 units of naturally affordable housing will be demolished to make room for this project.)
This looks like a set back to me. Shouldn’t the existing naturally affordable units be replaced before calculating the gains under the mayor’s Housing Plan?
If we are going to have a housing plan should all projects conform or just some?
But then again, what do I know? There are plenty who will agree, like Sergeant Schultz, “I know nothing at all.” (;-)