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Developer gets more time to buy Newton property for homeless housing

Posted by boston.com  July 31, 2013 05:51 PM

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The developer of a plan to build housing for formerly homeless people in Newton said Wednesday that it has reached an extension agreement with the Hospice of the Good Shepherd in its bid to purchase the Engine 6 site.

Metro West Collaborative Development, which wants to create 10 units of supportive housing in the city's Waban section, now has until Oct. 3 to purchase the property. The sale was originally scheduled to close on Aug. 12.

“If things went well, we would get city funds in the fall and a commitment of state funds in the spring,” said Jennifer Van Campen, the nonprofit's executive director. “We are still hopeful that the city of Newton will commit the sum.”

Mayor Setti Warren, however, said he has no plans to reconsider his position on the proposal. Warren announced in June that he would not approve the use of federal funds for the Engine 6 project.

“I am not prepared to move forward,” Warren said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “We have to ensure that projects like this answer questions about critical services for people and that these projects are thoroughly vetted before the expenditure of $1.4 million of taxpayer money.”

Warren said that proponents of the Engine 6 project failed to sufficiently answer questions raised by community members during a public meeting, and have yet to do so.

Warren also called the proposal incomplete, saying that it “did not address the population of people coming from Boston that would be in Newton to ensure that they had the greatest success possible in our community.”

Van Campen said she was enthused by the agreement on the purchase extension.

“As an agency, we have a proven track record of developing quality affordable housing, and we have partnered with an organization that is considered a leader in helping to address the crisis of homelessness in our state,” she said in a press release. “We are now hoping that Mayor Warren will outline the ‘community process’ he mentioned on June 25th so that we can help educate the residents of Waban and move the development forward.”

Warren said that the developer’s proposal should never have gotten as far as it did. In addition to the necessity for Metro West Collaborative Development to answer crucial questions about the needs and services of the population it aimed to serve, Warren suggested that the proposal also revealed shortcomings in the city’s process of vetting projects.

“It was not properly vetted,” he said.

Candace Havens, director of planning and development, added that Newton housing officials will assess their review process and reflect on the best ways to use available resources.

“I strongly support affordable housing in Newton, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the nation,” Warren said. “I also am committed to ensuring these projects are done right.”

Shandana Mufti can be reached at malika.mufti@globe.com.

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