Final Guidelines Issued on Multi-Family Zoning Requirement for MBTA Communities

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development released final guidelines on a multi-family zoning requirement for MBTA communities, which comes after a series of listening sessions and nearly 400 comments via an online portal sparked by the the draft version.

In a letter sent to those communities, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy and Department of Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox outlined some key changes made in the final guidelines.

They include:

• Revised Community Categories: MBTA Communities are now categorized as rapid
transit, commuter rail, adjacent, or adjacent small town. The “bus service” category has
been eliminated.

• Significant Adjustments for Small and Rural Towns with No Transit Stations: The
final guidelines eliminate the minimum land area requirement and reduce the multifamily unit capacity requirement for communities with a population of less than 7,000 or
less than 500 residents per square mile.

• Changes to the Reasonable Size Criteria: The guidelines establish “circuit breakers”
that prevent multi-family unit capacity from exceeding 25% of a community’s existing
Commonwealth of Massachusetts

One change that was not included, but raised by some advocates, was an affordability requirement for the rezoned units. The final guidelines only state that “These inclusionary zoning requirements serve the policy goal of increasing affordable housing production. If affordability requirements are excessive, however, they can make it economically infeasible to construct new multi-family housing.”

There is also no age-restricted housing in the unit, but the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative still encourages age-friendly communities served by the MBTA (and adjacent communities) to consider the policy an opportunity to promote housing options for older adults and multi-generational families.