Public meeting addresses affordable housing on Washington Street


Jacques Abou-Rizk

Conflict surrounding the space for buildings along Washington Street from Newton Corner to West Newton prompted a discussion about the future neighbors North might face, during a meeting organized by the Newtonville Area Council (NAC) on Thursday, Feb. 15.  
Members of the NAC held a “Public Charrette,” or a city-wide open meeting, to discuss topics such as the housing demand Newton experiences. With the help of students from Babson College, the NAC plans on conducting a survey for the residents of Newton on the issues discussed today.
“In a desirable area, such as Newton, one can never satisfy the housing demand. The city’s own housing consultant report confirmed that Newton ‘cannot build its way to affordability,’” said Kathleen Kouril Grieser, a Newtonville resident and Newton Villages Alliance board member.  
She added, “Adding high-density housing will not bring housing prices down. If it did, Manhattan, San Francisco, and Seattle would be some of the most affordable places to live, not some of the most expensive.”
Some community members, however, discouraged new construction completely, saying it would drive up the housing rent in the surrounding area.  
Tim Stone, former member of the NAC and founder of Beautiful Newtonville, set up the program at Babson College where a select group of students will design a survey that goes out to the residents of Newtonville in order to get their opinion on the Washington Street corridor.
“The students have already been preparing and researching information for this survey,” he said. “Now they will be able to add what we learned here to it too.”
In three months, Kaufman hopes to have finished handing out the survey and started to meet with the community again in order to discuss everyone’s ideas in further detail.  
“We are going to process all of these notes, then write a paper of everything we have learned,” said Marc Kaufman, one of the nine members of the NAC and a lead organizer for the Charrette, “The paper will later go to everyone that was here today and we’ll hold more meetings discussing if we need to make changes to the paper.”
The community members were split into six groups, rotating through the topics of transportation, housing, business mix, physical character, community impact and community benefits in order to hear everyone’s opinions and ideas.