A $626 million economic development bond bill signed by the governor on Jan. 14 includes a housing policy provision requiring MBTA communities to have at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right.

These districts must also meet the following criteria:
• Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre
• Not more than one-half mile from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station, if applicable
• No age restrictions
• Suitable for families with children

MBTA communities that fail to create a zoning district with as-of-right multifamily development would be ineligible for funds from the MassWorks Program, the Housing Choice Initiative, or the state’s Local Capital Projects Fund.

The statute requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to issue guidelines that define compliance with this new section of the Zoning Act. According to preliminary guidance issued by the DHCD on Jan. 29, compliance criteria will be developed promptly and in consultation with affected MBTA communities and other stakeholders.

In addition, for purposes of grant programs administered by DHCD and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, MBTA communities will be deemed to be in compliance with this new section until more detailed compliance criteria have been established.

The guidance states that all communities are eligible to apply for MassWorks or the Housing Choice Capital Grants Program in the upcoming 2021 grant cycle.

The MMA has consistently opposed the as-of-right section of the economic development bond bill, also known as An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth. On Jan. 7, the MMA sent a letter to the governor asking him to veto Section 18 of the bill, which he ultimately signed.

The law is Chapter 358 of the Acts of 2020.

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