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MHP honors Newton's Engine 6 with Housing Hero Award

Posted on June 15, 2022

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) has recognized a group of Newton residents with a Housing Hero Award for its dedication advocating for more housing in the city.

 Engine 6 received the honor on June 8 in a virtual awards ceremony at MHP’s 15th Housing Institute, a two-day training conference for local officials and volunteers. Each year MHP recognizes local leaders, communities, and individuals for their work in supporting affordable housing.

 MHP is a state housing organization that uses bank funds and other capital sources to support and finance affordable housing.

 Engine 6 was recognized for its ongoing advocacy for more housing production in Newton. These efforts include its role in supporting the use of a municipal parking lot for the 68-unit Austin Street development and its campaign to support the approval of the Northland Project.

 Northland involves the redevelopment of a 22-acre commercial near the Needham line and Route 128 into a mixed-use neighborhood with office, retail and community space, along with 800 apartments, 120 that will be affordable. Engine 6 worked alongside environmental activists and other groups to help the community achieve approval for the project.

The Northland approval took two votes. Initially, city councilors approved a zoning change and special permit that would allow the project to go forward. But some residents had concern about the size of the project and traffic impact. They collected enough signatures for a city-wide ballot question to overturn the council’s decision. However, thanks in part to Engine 6’s continued messaging campaign, Newton voters OK’d the project with over 18,000 citizens voting yes and 13,000 voting no.

 “They have been a consistent and effective voice for housing in Newton,” said Lisa Braxton, communications coordinator for MHP, who presented the award to Engine 6. “Often working against stiff and vocal opposition, they have shown great determination and their positive advocacy and messaging for housing has made more residents aware of housing need and helped the city move many housing developments forward.”

 Engine 6 was formed in June of 2013 to support the conversion of the former Engine 6 firehouse on Beacon Street in Waban into housing for nine chronically homeless individuals and a live-in house manager, which the city initially supported but then blocked, when neighborhood opposition heated up.

“We are fully committed to making Newton a more diverse city and the best way to do that is to build more housing. Adding affordable and market-rate housing is critical to this and we have been dogged in our work to support more housing.”
Lynn Weissberg, Engine 6

The group named themselves after the engine house and have been a consistent voice on housing ever since, maintaining a web site and an active social media presence that keeps housing top of mind with residents. Since it was created, Engine 6 has successfully advocated for over 2,100 units of housing of which 447 were permanently affordable.

 Engine 6 leadership team members Lynn Weissberg and Doris Ann Sweet accepted the Housing Hero Award on behalf of the group.

 “We are fully committed to making Newton a more diverse city and the best way to do that is to build more housing,” said Weissberg. “Adding affordable and market-rate housing is critical to this and we have been dogged in our work to support more housing.”

Engine 6 was one of four to receive a Housing Hero Award from MHP. Also honored were the City of Chelsea, Jennifer Raitt, Arlington director of planning & community development, and the Town of Wellfleet.

About MHP: MHP is a state non-profit organization that uses bank funds and other capital sources to support and finance affordable Housing. Since 1990, MHP has provided over $1.4 billion for the financing of over 26,000 apartments and has helped over 23,000 low- and moderate-income households buy their first home through the SoftSecond and ONE Mortgage programs. MHP’s Community Assistance team has provided support and technical assistance to over 300 communities and its Center for Housing Data does policy research and creates web-based tools to increase understanding and promote policies to allow more housing in response to demand.