Housing Production Law Becoming Reality

August 10, 2022

- By The MAR Legal Team

In December, we provided an update on the draft guidelines for the MBTA Communities program created by last session’s economic development bill. The program requires that certain municipalities that benefit most from Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority service have at least one district of a reasonable size where multifamily housing can be built as of right – meaning that the development is not subject to discretionary municipal special permitting decisions if it meets established requirements. 

On August 10, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) released Compliance Guidelines and related materials to assist communities that fall under this program. The final guidelines incorporate several changes including: 

  • 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 housing stock, or the minimum land from exceeding 1.5% of its total developable land area. 
  • Tailored District Location Requirements: The portion of a multi-family zoning district that must be located within a half mile of a transit station now varies based on the amount of developable station area within each MBTA community. Communities with more developable station area land will be required to have more of their multi-family districts within a half mile of transit stations. A community with less than 100 developable acres within a half mile of a station will be free to choose any appropriate location. 

EOHED is committed to working with cities and towns to assist them with compliance and will be rolling out a compliance model tool in the fall that will include municipal-specific information.  

Please reach out to Jonathan Schreiber, MAR Legislative and Policy Counsel with any questions or comments. As each MBTA community works through the implementation of this important zoning change, it presents an excellent opportunity for REALTORS® to engage locally to champion the importance of creating new home opportunities.