scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Newton may update accessory apartment ordinance to help spur housing creation

Newton officials are considering a proposal to update a local ordinance allowing accessory apartments in hopes of spurring the creation of more housing units in the city.

The proposed changes are being considered by the City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee, which is planning to hold a public hearing on the measure in September, according to a statement from Mayor Ruthanne Fuller.

Fuller said accessory apartments provide new options for people who don’t want, or can’t afford, to live in a single-family home. They also add flexibility for homeowners to house family members or caregivers close by, she said.

“We know there is a housing crunch across the state,” Fuller said. “Accessory apartments are a unique way to add housing often without constructing new buildings, or small ones away from the street if we do.”


Accessory apartments were first permitted in Newton in 1987, according to the city’s Planning and Development Department. The ordinance allows self-contained apartments in conjunction with single- and two-family homes, with a maximum of one accessory apartment per lot.

Now officials are considering proposals that would allow accessory apartments to be included as part of new construction, according to a department memo. Currently, accessory apartments are allowed in primary residences that are at least four years old, or by special permit.

The proposals also would ease special permit requirements for detached accessory apartments of up to 900 square feet, according to the department, as well as ease setback rules.

Newton’s ordinance was last updated in 2017, and those changes included the elimination of minimum parking requirements, as well as allowing accessory apartments by right within specific size requirements, according to the memo.

“The policy has led to the creation of several dozen new housing units and legalized many existing units,” the department said in the memo. “The City Council has consistently recognized and affirmed the role ADUs can play in fostering a diverse housing stock in a number of adopted City policies and plans.”


Since the 2017 update to the ordinance, 72 accessory apartments have been created. That figure is a modest increase, according to the memo: “progress is happening, but it has been slow.”

John Hilliard can be reached at