MBTA Communities Upzoning Guidelines, Explained (Plus Some Discussion and Commentary)

Blog post by Luc Schuster, Anne Calef
January 26, 2022

Boston Indicators   (Boston)

As our regional economy grows, we need more housing at a wider range of price points. But the state has left most housing policy decisions up to local governments, leading many communities with valuable transit access to adopt single-family-exclusive zoning rules that ban the construction of modest, diverse housing options like townhomes, duplexes and triple-deckers. To work on this challenge, the Massachusetts state legislature passed a law in January of 2021 requiring that all “MBTA communities” develop at least one zoning district within a ½ mile of transit that legalizes multi-family housing construction. While it leaves significant latitude to individual city and town governments, this law represents an important shift, with the state taking action to ensure that most eastern Massachusetts cities and town contribute to addressing our regional housing shortage.

This brief digs into the draft implementation guidelines for this law that were recenntly released by the Department of Housinc & Community Development. It is organized in two parts: the basics of the guidelines, and a discussion of porential benefits, issues and cahllenges that are created by the draft guidelines.