Since 2017, Newton’s Planning and Development Department has been working to amend the City’s Inclusionary Zoning ordinance to better meet the housing needs of Newton today. Like many communities in Massachusetts and across the country, Newton strongly values an economically diverse community; within the City’s Zoning Ordinance, the Inclusionary Zoning regulations support this value and require that new residential development includes opportunities for a mix of household incomes.
Inclusionary Zoning is a popular tool that is used by local governments across the country to leverage private development for the creation of affordable housing. While ordinances take many forms, a common structure is to require a percentage of units in a private development be rented or sold at affordable levels to low- and moderate-income households (usually households at or below 80% of the Area Median Income, AMI).
One of the ten Priority Actions to come out of Newton’s 2016 Newton Leads 2040 Housing Strategy was a recommendation that the City strengthen its Inclusionary Zoning ordinance in order to realize the greatest public benefit from private development taking place throughout Newton. In 2015, Mayor Warren docketed an item to increase the existing 15% minimum Inclusionary Housing provision and since that time staff has been working to amend and strengthen this ordinance to better meet the vast and diverse housing needs of Newton today.
The Inclusionary Zoning requirement is based on the total number of units proposed for a development and whether it is a rental or ownership project. The table below represents staff's November 2018 proposal for the updated Inclusionary Zoning requirements:
In an effort to design a new Inclusionary Zoning ordinance that would ensure that new housing development in Newton includes units for households of various income levels across the city, while not restraining development altogether, staff contracted with RKG Associates in January 2018 to determine the financial impact resulting from the proposed changes to the City’s existing Inclusionary Zoning ordinance.
The Financial Feasibility Analysis developed by RKG details the approach the consultants used to test the City’s proposed ordinance changes, the results of their analysis, and their recommended modifications to the proposed ordinance.
In 2017, the Planning Department met four times with the Zoning & Planning Committee of the City Council (ZAP), including one public hearing in December. In addition, Department staff conducted a number of in-person meetings and phone calls with community stakeholders and subject-matter experts to discuss the proposed changes to the ordinance and solicit feedback from the diverse constituencies.
In March 2018, RKG Associates presented its analysis and recommendations for Newton's Inclusionary Zoning ordinance to the ZAP Committee. In July 2018 and then again in September, the Planning Department presented its updated Inclusionary Zoning proposal to the ZAP Committee, and a Public Hearing was held in November and December of 2018.
On February 19, 2019, staff from the Planning and Law Departments joined Kyle Talente and Jahangir Akbar of RKG Associates and twelve affordable housing advocates for a two-hour roundtable discussion about the proposed Inclusionary Zoning ordinance. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the advocates’ questions and concerns relative to the current IZ proposal, specifically as they related to RKG’s Financial Feasibility Analysis and Model, and to identify points of agreement and disagreement.
The main takeaways from this roundtable discussion are outlined in the March 8, 2019 memo to ZAP, and detailed notes from this meeting are attached as an appendix, along with a response memo from RKG.