Unique Affordable Housing
In June 2003, a ribbon cutting ceremony took place at 90 Christina Street, the site of Newton's newest affordable housing development. This development is unique in that it offers both rental housing and homeownership opportunities on the 35,500 square foot Newton Highland property. The Kayla A. Rosenberg House, a renovated historic home, provides five rental apartments for young single parents and their children, while Highlands Glen provides four condominiums for first time homebuyers and income eligible city employees.
The development of the Christina Street property, which offers housing to nine families, was a long and challenging four-year journey. Beginning with the purchase of the property in 1999, its successful development and completion is a testimony to partnership, persistence, and the generosity and support of many members of the Newton community.
A Successful Partnership
Led by Citizens for Affordable Housing in Newton Development Organization, Inc (CAN-DO), this project involved a significant partnership with Newton Community Services Center (NCSC). CAN-DO is a community-based, non-profit developer of affordable housing for individuals and families with low and moderate-incomes. NCSC provides the community with a comprehensive range of family support services, including childcare, training, and elder care.
The partnership between CAN-DO and NCSC leveraged each organization's strengths and expertise to meet the needs of young parents requiring housing and supportive services. In 1998, NCSC applied for and received funding from a HUD McKinney grant to purchase housing for its Young Parents Program. The organization encountered great difficulty in its attempt to secure an affordable property where the proposed development would be supported by the neighborhood. CAN-DO provided the real estate development and legal expertise to help NCSC locate a property on Christina Street in Newton Highlands on which to develop housing for the clients of its Young Parents Program. The property was sufficient in size to enable CAN-DO to construct additional units on the site (the Highlands Glen condominiums).
The McKinney grant was allocated for the development of "Kayla's House" (the name given the Young Parents Program house), as well as for supportive services. The staff and clients of the Young Parents Program were involved in all aspects of the process, and the staff will continue to provide support services for the young parents once they reside in Kayla's House. In addition to the HUD McKinney grant, the Christina Street project was funded by: the City of Newton, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Auburndale Cooperative Bank, Boston Community Capital, Charlesbank Homes, Clipper Ship Foundation, and the Newton religious community.
Rental Housing for Young Parents
The Kayla A. Rosenberg House is named in memory of a young Newton student who died in the 2001 Oak Hill Middle School bus accident. This house provides a home for five young parents and their children, as they strive -- through working and schooling -- to establish economic self-sufficiency. The young parents, who have incomes that are less than 50% of the area median, pay no more than 30% of their income for rent, with the Newton Housing Authority providing a rental subsidy.
The Young Parent Program provides day care, parenting classes, educational and vocational counseling, and job training. In addition, Newton faith communities support the young families. Five congregations each volunteered to sponsor a young family by donating home furnishings, becoming mentors, and setting up a small fund for emergency needs.
Affordable Homeownership Opportunities
The Highlands Glen condominiums will provide an affordable home for one first-time homebuyer. The unit will be sold to a family whose income is less than 80% of the area median income. The other three condominiums will be sold to Newton city employees at an affordable rate, made possible through funding provided under the Community Preservation Act.
Challenges Faced and Overcome
The Christina Street project experienced a series of challenging setbacks between the purchase of the property in 1999 and the 2001 receipt of a comprehensive permit under Chapter 40B, which grants limited suspension of zoning regulations for affordable housing.
The application process was long, and marked by the vocal opposition of some of the neighbors, contentious public hearings, and legal challenges. The filing for the initial permit occurred in May 2000, and the comprehensive permit was issued in July of the same year. In response to an appeal filed by an abutter, the original location of one building was changed, and screening was enhanced. After the appeal was settled, it was necessary to file an amendment to the zoning board of appeals, and that amendment was granted in April 2001. Due to long delays resulting from the appeals process, the groundbreaking didn't occur until May 2002. Construction was completed in June 2003.
The Goodwill of the Newton Community
Yet, in the midst of the opposition and the delays, there were bright spots. Some of the neighbors who witnessed the vitriolic exchanges during the neighborhood meetings were galvanized to organize in support of the project. The Newton Clergy Association demonstrated early and consistent endorsement at city hearings, and elected officials, including Mayor Cohen and several of the aldermen, were publicly outspoken in their support of the project.
During the prolonged development process, CAN-DO was the beneficiary of pro bono legal assistance from Jason Rosenberg, Esq, the Boston law firm of Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels, Peter Farrow, Esq, and Russell Dunning, Esq.
Once the project was approved, the development and construction process was greatly aided by the generous contributions of in kind services and materials from several private companies. The granite curbing required by the city was donated by AvalonBay Communities, Inc, and installed by the Cranshaw Construction Company. H.C. Starck donated the fencing and a tot lot. Schumacher Landscaping donated some of the trees for the property.
Despite the obstacles encountered and through the efforts of many, nine families have a new home on Christina Street. The project's successful completion enriches the city, by making Newton more economically diverse, providing housing opportunities for families who otherwise could not afford to live here, and proving that much can be achieved through partnership, persistence, and the goodwill of a community.
Let it be known that you support affordable housing in your neighborhood. Join the NEWTON Y.I.M.B.Y. NETWORK(tm) and say "Yes In My Back Yard!"
For more details call (617) 964-3527.