Newton housing advocates are renewing calls that Mayor Ruthanne Fuller prioritize the needs of very low-income residents by using more than $10 million in federal pandemic aid to create more affordable housing and other support services.
Uniting Citizens for Housing Affordability in Newton asked people last week to sign an open letter urging Fuller to use the federal aid for housing and services to assist residents facing homelessness.
“Many of us have benefited from The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Uniting Citizens for Housing Affordability in Newton (U-CHAN) continues to remind the Newton community that ARPA funds include provisions to meet the needs of community members who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID, and by persistent, historic [discrimination],” the group said in a statement.
Fuller is expected to announce her remaining funding decisions with money drawn from the city’s allocation under the American Rescue Plan Act in the coming days, according to Ellen Ishkanian, a city spokeswoman.
More than $63 million was directed to Newton, and about $34.3 million already has been earmarked for local projects.
Fuller has said more affordable housing is needed in Newton, where the median sales price of a single-family home was more than $1.7 million in July, according to Redfin.
“I am deeply committed to having additional affordable housing here in Newton,” Fuller said in a previous interview. “We as a community need it.”
Fuller has used ARPA funds for efforts such as the $2.45 million acquisition of land near the Williams School, some of which will be used for affordable housing. The city has also funded programs, such as a $1.75 million “Economic Stability/Mobility” initiative that Fuller had announced in May.
On Thursday, the city will host an informational session on that program, which is intended to serve the city’s low- and moderate-income residents who have limited resources.
Thursday’s virtual session will be held at 6 p.m. People can register in advance at us02web.zoom.us/j/89551995488?pwd=TXRSQktDM0VsOVBIWUZZQkkwbFdBQT09.
The city has formed an advisory committee to work with the UMass Donahue Institute to create and oversee the economic mobility and self-sufficiency program.
The informational session will feature Christina Citino, a senior research manager at the UMass institute, who has helped lead the effort to create the program, Fuller said in a statement.
Aside from ARPA, the city also has spent the last several years working to create affordable housing at the West Newton Armory building.
A community needs assessment for Newton — which was released earlier this year — identified housing and financial hardship as the top two “broad challenges” facing the city’s households in the wake of the pandemic.
The report called for greater support for residents, including housing, child care, and transportation. The city also should offer emergency housing and food assistance, and find ways to create more affordable housing, the report said.
Newton’s lower-income residents, particularly those who are Black and Hispanic, have been disproportionately harmed economically by the health crisis, Fuller has said.
In its open letter, Uniting Citizens for Housing Affordability in Newton said Fuller has “partially responded” to its requests by allocating $250,000 for emergency rent and utility aid and by committing to the economic mobility program.
“However, since a program has not yet been established, we continue to advocate for comprehensive services,” the group said.
John Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.