MBTA Communities Important Next Steps

February 3, 2023

- By The MAR Legal Team

The first major deadline for the MAR-supported MBTA Communities law took effect on January 31st. The law requires communities served by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to create at least one reasonably sized zoning district where multi-family housing is permitted as of right. (Read more about the law and MAR’s involvement here.) 

The law covers 175 communities, all of which were required to submit a six-page action plan by January 31st in order to remain in the program. The action plan required:  

1. Basic information about the municipality and their MBTA service 

2. A housing overview  

3. Preliminary zoning strategies  

4. Action timeline 

Failure to submit a plan would leave towns out of compliance with the law and forego their eligibility for funding from: 

1. Housing Choice Initiative – provides incentives, rewards, technical assistance and targeted legislative reform to encourage and empower municipalities to plan and build the diverse housing stock that the Commonwealth needs to continue to thrive. Communities can apply for grants of up to $300,000 from a $4 million fund. 

2. Local Capital Projects Fund – collects a percentage of gaming license funding. Some of these funds are used to support local housing authorities. 

3. MassWorks Infrastructure program – provides grants to communities to help them prepare for success and contribute to the long term strength and sustainability of the Commonwealth. Since 2015, MassWorks has made 387 awards to 197 communities, investing over $700M in funding to public infrastructure projects in all regions of the state. Cumulatively, these grants have supported the creation of over 25,600 new housing units, tens of thousands of jobs, while also leveraging almost $16.8B in private investments. 

Throughout the last several months, MAR has been working with members and local associations to support town compliance with the MBTA Communities law. Several communities pushed back on the law, including through lawsuit and discussion around closing their MBTA station, but ultimately almost every one took the necessary first steps. The four towns that refused to comply at this stage are:  

1. Berkley 

2. Holden

3. Marshfield

4. Middleborough

Over the next two years, towns that wish to continue in compliance with the law will need to submit finalized zoning changes to the Department of Housing and Community Development. MAR will continue to support this important law. If you’re interested in getting involved to support housing production in your community, let us know!