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The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities today released additional revisions to its compliance guidelines for multi-family zoning districts in MBTA communities.
Under the revisions, MBTA communities may now allow mixed-use and non-residential developments, which was not allowed under the previous guidelines and was a concern raised by a number of communities.
The revised guidelines, however, also add 13 discretionary grant programs to the list of programs for which state agencies will take compliance with the MBTA zoning law into consideration when making grant award recommendations.
The revisions allow an MBTA community to “offset” the minimum multi-family unit capacity requirement in certain multi-family zoning districts by up to 25%, based on the unit capacity of a mixed-use zoning district, if certain requirements are met.
They aim to “protect the financial feasibility of achieving housing goals where mixed-use zoning requires ground-floor non-residential uses” by setting location criteria for mixed-use development districts; capping the percentage ground floor area of each development that may be required to be non-residential; requiring a broad mix of non-residential uses allowed as of right; and prohibiting minimum parking requirements for non-residential uses.
In a memo today to municipal officials in MBTA communities, Housing and Livable Communities Secretary Edward Augustus said the revisions to the compliance guidelines “are intended to provide greater flexibility to MBTA communities to adopt new zoning districts in mixed-use neighborhoods, and to promote housing opportunities for residents in such neighborhoods.” He added that the revisions “do not reduce the total unit capacity required by the guidelines.”
Enacted as part of the 2020 economic development law, the new Section 3A of Chapter 40A (the Zoning Act) requires 177 MBTA communities to have at least one zoning district of reasonable size near a transit station in which multifamily housing is permitted as of right — and to meet other criteria set forth in the statute — or risk a loss of eligibility for funding from the state’s MassWorks program, the Housing Choice Initiative, or the Local Capital Projects Fund.
The programs added by the revised guidelines are:
• Community Planning Grants
• Massachusetts Downtown Initiative
• Urban Agenda
• Rural and Small Town Development Fund
• Brownfields Redevelopment Fund
• Site Readiness Program
• Underutilized Properties Program
• Collaborative Workspace Program
• Real Estate Services Technical Assistance
• Commonwealth Places Programs
• Land Use Planning Grants
• Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity
• Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Planning and Project Grants
All MBTA communities were required to achieve interim compliance by Jan. 31, 2023, with full compliance varying by transit community type, beginning in Dec. 31, 2023.