20 December
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Zoning Changes in Newton & What They Mean | By Emma Kaloupek

A polarizing zoning proposal was just approved in Newton, MA after years of debate. The proposal was brought on by 2021 law called the MBTA Communities Law which calls for 177 cities and towns along the Green Line and Commuter Rail to adjust their zoning laws to accommodate for more housing within a half mile radius of train stations. This approval comes just weeks before the December 31 deadline for cities to comply with the law.

What is the proposal?

The Village Center Overlay District (VCOD) proposal calls for an additional 8,330 housing units to be built in 6 of Newton’s 13 villages (highlighted below). 

To put this number of additional units in perspective, during the years of 2010 to 2020, Newton added roughly 1,100 new units which equates to about 3% of Newton’s 37,000 total housing unit count. 

The additional units will come in the form of multi-family properties, as well as additions on the top of existing single story commercial buildings. This means that many single story commercial spaces will now grow to 3-4 stories, which has some residents and business owners worried. 

With that being said, this presents an opportunity for homebuyers and investors to get into a highly sought after market that has been notoriously hard to break into.

Why is it polarizing?

Concerns from Newton residents and businesses range from lack of parking to increased rent prices in order to offset construction costs to the deconstruction of historic buildings and neighborhoods.

On another end, some feel that this approved plan was scaled back too much from the originally proposed plan. Housing advocates would have liked to see a more ambitious goal that would have allowed for zoning changes in all 13 villages, as opposed to just the 6 and believe that this proposal is not doing enough to combat the housing crisis.

And on a third hand, some feel that this will help transform Newton into a more welcoming, diverse and inclusive city and that the increase in residents will help small businesses flourish.

Implications for residents, homebuyers & investors

So what does it mean for you? Well, if you have always dreamed of getting into the highly desirable city of Newton but could never get behind the price tag of living there, this may be your opportunity. The intention of this proposal is to provide a range of housing options in terms of size and price, while also making it easier for current homeowners to add additional units to their existing dwellings that they can then rent out for a considerably more affordable price. Not all towns in Massachusetts allow for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) but thankfully Newton is one that does. Not only that, they have loosened their ordinance to make it easier on homeowners to create these additional units since they are such an important source of housing for the city.


Newton is a lynchpin in the scheme of Greater Boston’s 5 million person population. Both in terms of its centrality and its size, Newton plays an outsized role in the region’s housing and transit needs. While the passing of this proposal marks only the beginning of a lengthy new chapter in the city’s history, these more “lenient” zoning laws should have the ability to add much needed housing units that can soften the larger regional housing crisis that Greater Boston is facing. In an idealistic world, these new regulations may help shape a future Newton with a more dynamic, inclusive and, well, dense community. On top of this, Newton could serve as a model for other greater Boston communities on how they can rezone to accommodate increased demand for varied types of housing. For those who care about more opportunities and access to housing for the broader population, this is a great thing!