Newton is just under six months away from a deadline to comply with the new law that requires communities to make it easier to build multi-family homes close to transit.
Cobbling together a plan hasn’t been — and won’t be — easy in a city where housing has long been the third rail of politics.
But part of the Fuller administration’s proposed solution just received a nice page one nod from the Globe’s Andrew Brinker who focuses on a part of the proposed rezoning that would allow for taller buildings in village centers and commercial areas.
“Should the rezoning overcome fledgling resident opposition and pass by the end-of-year deadline, it could serve as a model for other communities and represent a major turning point in the city’s attitude toward multifamily housing,” Brinker writes.
It’s an idea that has always made sense. Not only would it provide new housing options for those who need a place to live, but more foot traffic and customers for our local businesses.
Under the plan, building heights would max out at four-and-a-half stories in some villages and two-and-a-half stories elsewhere, while buildings that provide affordable housing could be a little taller.
Along with additional changes (mainly between Newton Centre and Newton Highlands, along Route 9, and in Waban) the rezoning would allow for the addition of more than 10,000 new apartments, exceeding the 8,330 required under the MBTA Communities law.
However, it’s super important to note that just because it would be “allowed,” it’s unlikely that anywhere that number would be built, or built anytime soon.
Also worth noting: The new rules would apply to only around 3% of Newton’s total land area.
“Targeting the village centers is an idea proven to make cities more vibrant,” City Councilor and Zoning & Planning Committee Chair Deb Crossley tells Brinker.
“Nobody’s residential neighborhood is going to suddenly start seeing apartment buildings on every corner.”
Still, Newton being Newton, even if approved by the city council this fall, look for opponents to try and reject efforts to provide a roof over more peoples’ heads through a ballot referendum.
(Our other chamber communities Needham, Watertown and Wellesley also need to rezone under the MBTA Communities, but have until the end of 2024 to do so, although there’s nothing in the law preventing them from following Lexington’s lead and rezoning sooner.)