This press release was issued by candidate for mayor Ted Hess-Mahan over the weekend…

NEWTON, MA – June 27, 2013.  Alderman-at-Large and Mayoral candidate Ted Hess-Mahan today called on Mayor Setti D. Warren to reconsider his decision to block funding for a proposal to build affordable housing for once homeless people at the former Engine 6 Fire Station in Waban.   The project, developed by a private non-profit, Metro West Collaborative Development, and managed by The Pine Street Inn, was to be funded by a combination of public and private money.  The Aldermen from Ward 5 in Newton, which includes the village of Waban, had arranged for a series of community meetings to share information about this affordable housing proposal with the public and allow Newton residents to express their views and ask questions.  The Mayor was not expected to make a decision whether to fund this proposal until after July 2, and, because of his early decision to block the project, the community meeting that was supposed to take place at City Hall tonight has been cancelled.

“I am seriously disappointed in the Mayor’s premature decision to stifle public discussion about this proposal, which would have created housing opportunities for nine people who are homeless in Newton,” said Alderman Hess-Mahan.   “Creating affordable housing for very low-income individuals is a crucial part of ending homelessness, and more housing of this kind is desperately needed—even in an affluent community like Newton, where most people never have to worry about having a roof over their heads.  The Aldermen from the ward put a lot of time and effort into engaging the community, sharing accurate and complete information about the proposal, and addressing residents’ legitimate questions and concerns about the impact of this proposal on the neighborhood.  Their hard work had been rewarded by significant progress, with the proponents demonstrating a willingness to work with both the neighborhood and city officials to respond to those questions and concerns and to ensure that this proposal would be beneficial for both the neighborhood as well as the future residents of Engine 6.”

“In just the past few days, there have been many Waban residents and community-based organizations who have expressed their support for this proposal and are bitterly disappointed that they will not have the opportunity to do so publicly at the community meeting that was planned for tonight.  Because this administration had not sought to engage the community before now, the task fell upon the Aldermen from the ward to provide a public forum for what is always a difficult conversation when it comes to affordable housing and homelessness.  While I agree with the  Mayor that the community needed more time to understand and discuss this proposal, his lack of engagement and subsequent decision to block the project right before tonight’s event makes absolutely no sense, and was a disservice to the proponents as well as Newton residents, whether they supported the project or not.  It is difficult enough to create affordable housing opportunities in Newton, and this sends the unfortunate message to other non-profits and the public that this city will not make it any easier to do so.”

“I therefore call on Mayor Warren to reconsider his decision to block this proposal to provide affordable housing to homeless people in Newton and to begin to engage the community right away in this difficult but necessary conversation.”

Ted Hess-Mahan is a candidate for Mayor of Newton.  He has served on the Newton Board of Aldermen since 2003, where he has been Chairman of the Land Use Committee for the past four years.  He is also a member of the Newton Fair Housing Committee as well as the Massachusetts Housing Appeals Committee, which decides appeals of comprehensive permits to create affordable housing granted under Chapter 40B, the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Law.  Prior to serving on the Board of Aldermen, Ted was a member of the Newton Human Rights Commission as well as President of the Board of Directors of CAN-DO, a community based non-profit developer of affordable housing for individuals and families with low to moderate incomes in Newton.