As an online only companion column to reporter Jack Sullivan’s really well done article about Newton’s struggles to build affordable housing in the latest issue of CommonWealth Magazine, columnist Amy Dain, who grew up in Newtonville reflects on the changes in her hometown’s village, the Austin Street vote and what it all means for the smart growth in Newton and elsewhere.
It’s really worth reading Dain’s full column — and Bill and Amy Dain’s before and after photos are wonderful — but I really appreciate this part, about one of the Austin Street Land Use hearings….
The large hearing room at Newton City Hall was packed with people overflowing into the hall. The opponents were there in force, expressing many legitimate concerns. The supporters were there in force, too. A large coalition of Newton-based organizations mobilized to advocate for the project, including Green Newton, League of Women Voters of Newton, Newton Council on Aging, Newton Fair Housing Committee, Newton Housing Authority, Progressive Newton, and others. My parents were there, wearing their pro-Austin Street buttons; this was not their first time at an Austin Street hearing.
Why were residents turning out in force to support a big housing development, larger than any residential building within a mile radius (other than the senior housing by Cabot Park)? The residents supporting the project had no financial stake in its success. These are people who already love Newtonville the way it is. Why would they want to see it change? What motivated them to turn out in favor of this project, even risking conflict with their neighbors who opposed it?
My read is that the movement for smart growth is taking hold. Its message is resonating. The work of many organizations and community leaders over the last 20 years to promote smart growth is starting to bear fruit.