Draft multifamily zoning guidelines, to be released this month, would apply to 175 MBTA communities in the state.

The Department of Housing and Community Development has announced that draft guidelines for a new multifamily zoning requirement for “MBTA communities” are expected to be available for review and public comment by mid-December.

New Section 3A of Chapter 40A (the Zoning Act), which was part of the 2021 economic development bill, 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 also provides that the DHCD, in consultation with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, must promulgate guidelines to determine if an MBTA community is in compliance with Section 3A.

The mid-December release will include draft compliance criteria, guidance relative to the upcoming Community One Stop for Growth application process, and other supplemental information. In the interim, the DHCD offers preliminary guidance and additional background on the law.

The DHCD intends to conduct a public engagement process in early 2022 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.

MBTA communities
The following are the MBTA communities, in three regional categories:
Category 1: Bedford, Beverly, Braintree, Burlington, Canton, Cohasset, Concord, Danvers, Dedham, Dover, Framingham, Hamilton, Hingham, Holbrook, Hull, Lexington, Lincoln, Lynn, Lynnfield, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Marblehead, Medfield, Melrose, Middleton, Nahant, Natick, Needham, Norfolk, Norwood, Peabody, Quincy, Randolph, Reading, Salem, Saugus, Sharon, Stoneham, Swampscott, Topsfield, Wakefield, Walpole, Waltham, Wellesley, Wenham, Weston, Westwood, Weymouth, Wilmington, Winchester, Winthrop, Woburn

Category 2: Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Milton, Newton, Revere, Somerville, Watertown

Category 3: Abington, Acton, Amesbury, Andover, Ashburnham, Ashby, Ashland, Attleboro, Auburn, Ayer, Bellingham, Berkley, Billerica, Boxborough, Boxford, Bridgewater, Brockton, Carlisle, Carver, Chelmsford, Dracut, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Easton, Essex, Fitchburg, Foxborough, Franklin, Freetown, Georgetown, Gloucester, Grafton, Groton, Groveland, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Haverhill, Harvard, Holden, Holliston, Hopkinton, Ipswich, Kingston, Lakeville, Lancaster, Lawrence, Leicester, Leominster, Littleton, Lowell, Lunenburg, Mansfield, Marlborough, Marshfield, Maynard, Medway, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleborough. Millbury, Millis, Newbury, Newburyport, North Andover, North Attleborough, Northborough, Northbridge, Norton, North Reading, Norwell, Paxton, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Princeton, Raynham, Rehoboth, Rochester, Rockland. Rockport, Rowley, Salisbury, Scituate, Seekonk, Sherborn, Shirley, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sterling, Stoughton, Stow, Sudbury, Sutton, Taunton, Tewksbury, Townsend, Tyngsborough, Upton, Wareham, Wayland, West Boylston, West Bridgewater, Westborough, West Newbury, Westford, Westminster, Whitman, Worcester, Wrentham