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Jan 05

Multi-Family Zoning Requirement for MBTA Communities

Posted on January 5, 2022 at 11:05 AM by Kara Brewton

12/22/21

Last week the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development released Draft Guidelines for the Multi-Family Zoning Requirement for MBTA Communities at: mass.gov/mbtacommunities

These Draft Guidelines relate to the new Section 3A of M.G.L. c. 40A (the Zoning Act) enacted as part of the January 2021 economic development bill. This new Section ties eligible funding from the Housing Choice Initiative, the Local Capital Projects Fund, and the MassWorks Infrastructure Program to those MBTA Communities that have at least one zoning district in which multi-family housing is permitted without a discretionary permitting process (e.g., special permits).

The Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) is currently analyzing the differences between the Town’s current Zoning By-Law and the Draft Guidelines. We are studying the Guidelines’ dimensional requirements such as the minimum size of a contiguous multifamily district and minimum unit density within that district. Our staff are also exploring alternative ways to ensure compliance with key elements of our existing zoning (e.g., requiring affordable housing deed restrictions related to inclusionary zoning provisions without a special permit, conducting design review without a special permit). 

DPCD is also reviewing these Draft Guidelines with the Town Administrator’s Office and the Department of Public Works to better understand the amount of potential State funding the Town, if not compliant with the MBTA Communities criteria, would be ineligible to receive. 

To remain in compliance, the Town of Brookline would need to:

  • hold a briefing with the Select Board and submit information regarding current compliance to the state by May 2, 2022; 
  • have a state-approved action plan to come into compliance by no later than March 31, 2023; and
  • such action plan must plan for any zoning changes to be adopted no later than December 31, 2023.

We plan to present more information, analysis, and alternative next steps to the Select Board by the end of January 2022, seeking direction over the next several months as to what extent they would like to be a compliant MBTA Community in the near term. We will post additional information as available, including our community engagement plan, a link to send our staff comments or questions, and related public meetings/hearings with various land use Boards and the Select Board at https://www.brooklinema.gov/2044

 The deadline for submitting comments regarding the Draft Guidelines to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development is March 31, 2022. Anyone may send comments on the Draft Guidelines directly to the state through their website at mass.gov/mbtacommunities. The state will issue final guidelines in summer 2022. 

*Link to MGL section updated Jan 5, 2022 following state General Laws correction.