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NEWTON

Newton panel recommends affordable housing for armory

A proposal by Mayor Ruthanne Fuller calls for the city to buy the West Newton Armory and lease it a developer, which would convert and manage the property as affordable housing.
A proposal by Mayor Ruthanne Fuller calls for the city to buy the West Newton Armory and lease it a developer, which would convert and manage the property as affordable housing.John Hilliard for The Boston Globe

A city panel is supporting Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s proposal that Newton purchase the armory property on Washington Street for $1 and use it to create new affordable housing.

More than a year ago, Fuller called for using the former Massachusetts National Guard armory to create less expensive housing in Newton.

In its Nov. 13 report, the nine-member West Newton Armory Joint Advisory Planning Group unanimously supported affordable housing at the property.

“The purchase of the historic West Newton Armory to create 100% permanently affordable housing will provide the City of Newton with an extraordinary opportunity to pursue the City’s housing goals and fulfill its obligations to affirmatively further fair housing,” the planning group’s report said.

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The planning group also recommended that after buying the property, the city should lease the armory to a developer who will convert and manage the property as affordable housing.

The panel is expected to meet with the City Council’s Real Property Reuse Committee on Dec. 16 to review the report. Newton has until Dec. 31 to decide whether to acquire the armory.

The subcommittee must vote to send the proposal to the full City Council, which must approve the city’s purchase of the property for affordable housing.

The working group, formed nearly a year ago, prepared a nearly 40-page report that included more than 800 pages of supporting documentation. The city received a $200,000 state grant to study the feasibility of converting the armory to housing.

It noted that converting the existing building and site to affordable housing will present significant challenges, but also presented “opportunities to create substantial benefits for our community.”

Special legislation signed by Governor Charlie Baker in August gave the city the option of purchasing the property from the state for $1 if it is used for affordable housing purposes.

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That housing must be available to residents with income levels of no more than 80 percent of the area median income, which is about $113,000 for a family of four, according to the city.

The city also could buy the property for municipal use, though the city would have to pay a higher price for it. If Newton does not acquire the armory property, the state will be able to sell it on the open market.



John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.