New Transit Oriented Zoning Criteria Proposed for Massachusetts

More details on the state of Massachusetts' game changing "Housing Choice" program are now available.

January 13, 2022, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


MBTA Green Line

Lewis Liu / Shutterstock

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in December 2021 announced new draft guidelines for zoning changes intended to spur multi-family development near transit routes, as mandated by a state law adopted earlier in 2021.

According to an MAPC statement published on Wednesday, the state required zoning changes affects MBTA communities, defined as cities or towns with MBTA service. In all, 175 such communities are subject to the law.

Enacted as part of the economic development bill in January 2021, new Section 3A of M.G.L. c. 40A (the Zoning Act) requires that an MBTA community shall have at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right and meets other criteria set forth in the statute.

The criteria for multi-family housing in the required zoning districts, as defined in the draft guidelines, are defined as follows:  

  • Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre
  • Not more than ½ miles from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station, if applicable.
  • No age restrictions
  • Suitable for families with children.

"The new requirement is more than just housing policy. With strong and feasible guidance, Section 3A, a new section of MGL c. 40A – the Zoning Act, could deliver transformational transportation, equity, and climate benefits for our region," according to the statement.

The required zoning changes are included in the "Housing Choice" program included in the January 2021 economic development bill. For more background on the Housing Choice program see earlier Planetizen coverage.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022 in Metropolitan Area Planning Council

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