Attorney General's Office Issues Advisory Regarding Multi-Family Zoning Requirements for MBTA Communities
The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office last week issued an advisory to clarify requirements imposed on towns and cities by the 2021 MBTA Communities Zoning Law. To address the Commonwealth’s housing crisis, the law implemented zoning reforms that require towns and cities to allow reasonable levels of multifamily housing development near MBTA stations. In response to some confusion about the requirements of the law, the AG’s advisory explains that all MBTA Communities must comply.
Click here to access the full text of the complete advisory.
30 of 36 495/MetroWest Partnership communities are defined as MBTA Communities.
The MBTA Communities Zoning Law was enacted to remove barriers to the development of higher-density, transit-oriented housing along the MBTA transportation network to address the Commonwealth’s housing crisis, and advance significant climate and transportation goals. Because some local zoning laws sought to limit or prevent the construction of multifamily housing near MBTA stations, the statute explicitly responds by requiring MBTA Communities to have at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multifamily housing is allowed “as of right.” This district must generally be located within half a mile of a transit station and allow for development at a minimum gross density of fifteen units per acre. The law also prevents restrictions within the designated district that would interfere with the construction of housing suitable for families with children.
The advisory explains that covered communities must come into compliance with the MBTA Communities Zoning Law. MBTA Communities that do not currently have a compliant multi-family zoning district must take steps outlined in the Department of Housing and Community Development’s guidelines to demonstrate interim compliance. The advisory clarifies that covered communities cannot opt out of or avoid their obligations by choosing to forego state funding. Failure to comply may result in civil enforcement action or liability under federal and state fair housing laws.
The Citizens' Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) is now providing technical assistance for community engagement to all interested MBTA Communities seeking to comply with the Multi-family Zoning Requirements for MBTA Communities (Section 3A). Municipal staff, elected leaders, and board members are encouraged to apply.