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Newton’s ‘forgotten middle’ getting new housing option

By Wicked Local – With a shortage of housing stock in the Newton area, those seniors who are part of the “forgotten middle,” have few affordable options when looking for a smaller home.

However, that could change in the near future. 2Life, a nonprofit which creates communities where seniors can live independently while connecting with others, according to its website, is aiming to build Opus Newton, a middle-income development on the JCC campus for those age 62 and older.

On Sept. 20, 2021, the full City Council approved 2Life’s plan to move forward with their project.

Opus could be completed by 2025, depending on how many people reserve units ahead of time.

Who makes up the ‘forgotten middle’?

According to Sharon Brooks, 2Life’s chief marketing officer, by 2030, 54 percent of older adults won’t be able to afford senior living as it is today. Further, the situation is worse in Massachusetts due to the high cost of housing.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Brooks.

2Life has worked diligently to create housing communities for low- and extremely-low-income seniors (including Coleman House on the JCC campus and the Golda Meir House in Auburndale) and is expanding its mission to include middle-income options.

Brooks said that those who qualify for the Opus units either are not eligible for subsidized housing in Newton, aren’t “comfortable” paying for luxury accommodations or may not be able to afford what’s on the market today. Middle-income residents earn about 80 percent of the median household income in Newton.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Newton in 2019 dollars was $151,068. Eighty percent of that number is $120,854.

Aging in place

An important part of Opus involves multifaceted healthcare options. According to 2Life, those options “are centered around giving people the ability to stay in their homes and have healthcare providers come to them.”

In addition, “The physical and mental costs of isolation are so great,” said Brooks.

Living in interactive communities has tremendous health benefits, especially since residents “will take an active role in their community by pledging to volunteer approximately 10 hours a month of their time,” according to 2Life. “These contributions can include teaching a course, offering professional expertise or lending one’s time to a number of community projects, creating an environment of collective contribution and purpose.”

Seniors will feel like they’re “not being put out to pasture,” said Brooks, as they continue to be actively involved in the community.

What are the details?

  • Opus Newton will be connected to 2Life’s Coleman House on the campus of the Greater Boston JCC
  • There will be 174 residences, with more than eight different one- and two-bedroom plans ranging in size from 650 to 1,350 square feet
  • There will be two stories of underground parking – some for Opus residents, some for the JCC
  • Flexible community spaces will be available
  • Residents will volunteer about 10 hours a month of their time
  • Opus will have on-site care advocates and partnerships with providers to help keep care more affordable, according to 2Life.