The Department of Housing and Community Development today released draft guidelines for a new multifamily zoning requirement for “MBTA communities.”

The guidelines are available online and public comment is being accepted through March 31. The DHCD is planning to host an informational webinar on Jan. 12 at 1 p.m.

Enacted as part of the 2021 economic development bill, a new section (3A) of the Zoning Act (Ch. 40A) requires the 175 MBTA communities to have a zoning ordinance or bylaw that provides for at least one district of reasonable size in which multifamily housing is permitted as of right.

The law requires the DHCD, in consultation with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, to promulgate guidelines to determine if an MBTA community is in compliance with Section 3A.

A web page with the newly released guidelines includes draft compliance criteria, information about technical assistance, and other supplemental information.

The DHCD will now conduct a public engagement process to gather input and feedback from interested parties, including MBTA communities, developers, planners and other interested stakeholders. The draft guidelines may be modified as appropriate based on this additional public input.

Section 3A of the Zoning Act requires an MBTA community to have at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multifamily housing is permitted as of right, with the district meeting 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 that complies with Section 3A would be ineligible for funds from the MassWorks Program, the Housing Choice Initiative, and the state’s Local Capital Projects Fund.

Housing and Economic Development Secretary Michael Kennealy, Massachusetts Housing Partnership Executive Director Clark Ziegler, and Chris Kluchman, deputy director of the DHCD’s Community Services Division, will discuss compliance with Section 3A of the Zoning Act during an MMA Annual Meeting workshop on Jan. 21.

Letter to local officials in MBTA communities from Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (200K PDF)

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