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Newton reaches Chapter 40B threshold

Calculations made by various city departments over the past several weeks have determined that Newton has met an affordable-housing threshold, and no longer falls under the parameters of the state’s Chapter 40B affordable-housing law, according to the city’s attorney.

The determination was made through sophisticated satellite technology, legal analysis, cross-referencing, and double-checking of figures, said City Solicitor Donnalyn B. Lynch Kahn.

According to figures provided by the Planning Department, 1.88 percent of the city’s land is used for affordable housing, passing the 1.5 percent threshold stipulated in the 40B law.

Kahn said the city is among the first to use the land area stipulation to override the 40B law, but meeting the threshold does not mean the city can automatically reject new housing proposals. Rather, she said, “The need for affordable housing no longer automatically trumps local concerns.”


The Zoning Board of Appeals on Dec. 18 used the city’s new status for the first time, putting developers of a proposed 150-unit apartment complex off Rowe Street on notice that the city has met the affordable-housing threshold.

“It no longer becomes our mandate to put in affordable units and still make sure the developer makes a profit,” said the board’s chairwoman, Brooke K. Lipsitt. “40B will be a less attractive opportunity for developers. . . . But personally, I hope we can continue to develop affordable housing in the city.”

Developers have the right to appeal the Zoning Board of Appeals’s use of the threshold and challenge the city’s figures, Kahn said, but she is confident the city has used conservative calculations that put it well over the 1.5 percent mark.

The city has calculated the land area coverage as well as the percentage of affordable housing units in the city for every 40B development that has been proposed, according to Kahn, who said this is the first time the city’s figures have showed that the land area threshold has definitively been met.


Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@ gmail.com.