Massachusetts Zoning Reform Law Reaches First Deadline

Cities and towns had until January 31 to submit their draft plans for rezoning areas near transit stations to comply with a new state law.

2 minute read

February 1, 2023, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of MBTA commuter rail station in Concord, Massachusetts among green trees

MBTA commuter rail station in Concord, Massachusetts. | Wangkun Jia / MBTA station

According to an article by Christian MilNeil in Streetsblog Mass, 175 Massachusetts municipalities had until yesterday to submit plans complying with the state’s new transit-oriented development (TOD) law, which requires them to submit non-binding ‘action plans’ identifying proposals for legalizing multifamily zoning to support increased housing production near transit stations.

“Where many suburbs currently only allow single-family homes with large lawns, the new rules will require new zoning districts ‘of reasonable size,’ and generally within a half-mile of transit stops, where builders would be allowed to construct at least 15 homes per acre,” MilNeil explains. Noncompliance would bar cities and towns from receiving certain state funding.

As many housing advocates point out, zoning reform is just the first step toward more housing production, and market conditions and other factors will also dictate where and how much housing gets built. In the Town of Weston, one of the “exclusionary suburbs” required to submit a plan, members of the town’s Housing Production Plan Implementation Committee “raised the point that simply creating a new zoning law to comply with the new state rules need not necessarily lead to more housing on the ground.”

An article from last September expressed concerns that the service disruptions and other problems experienced by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in the last few years could hinder TOD, but advocates remain hopeful that the agency will make the necessary improvements to effectively serve the region.

Monday, January 30, 2023 in Streetsblog Mass

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