Muni Matters: State Finalizes Multi-Family Housing Rules

State officials this week released the final rules for multifamily subdivisions that half of all municipalities in Massachusetts will soon have to meet if they want to keep their access to state funding.

An economic development law signed by Governor Charlie Baker in January 2021 requires each MBTA area to have at least one zoning district near a transit station where multifamily housing is allowed. There is 175 cities and towns which must now comply with the requirements under the law, and those with greater access to MBTA service will have greater responsibilities.

The high cost of living in Massachusetts is reducing household income and making the state less important to business development. The lack of available housing in the state is driving up prices and the Baker administration said that “a lack of multi-family housing is a barrier to new housing development in Massachusetts. On Wednesday, the Department of Housing and Human Development was released final instructions to see if the MBTA is complying with the new law.

“As you review the guidelines and begin working to comply with this new housing law, remember: If Massachusetts is to be a better place for people, families, and businesses, then we must address the housing crisis together,” Secretary. Mike Kennealy and Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox wrote in a letter at all MBTA locations this week. “This law is not a law for building houses. It’s all about implementing sustainable housing in the coming years and decades – not just good building codes, but also climate and transportation policies. “

The new guidance spells out the exact requirements for the 175 municipalities that are considered MBTA communities for purposes of the law: Multifamily housing districts must have a minimum density of 15 units per acre; not more than half a kilometer from a railway station, railway station, ferry terminal or bus station; they have no age restrictions and should be suitable for families with children.

MBTA areas that do not comply with statutory requirements by the required dates are not eligible to receive awards from the state’s main sources of funding for urban projects – the Housing Choice Initiative, the Local Capital Projects Fund, or the MassWorks Infrastructure Program.

All MBTA areas must submit an action plan to DHCD by Jan. 31, 2023. Depending on the type of MBTA area, cities and towns must be fully compliant by different dates. 12 “fast moving” areas by Dec. 31, 2023, 69 “railroad” areas by Dec. 31, 2024, 59 “adjacent” areas by Dec. 31, 2024, and 35 “neighboring small town” villages by Dec. 31, 2025. Boston is exempt from the law.

In a letter to the MBTA public Wednesday, Kennealy and Maddox outlined some of the changes Baker’s administration made based on findings from a regulatory review issued in December. The minimum lot requirement was lowered, the number of subdivisions was limited to areas with less than 7,000 people or less than 500 people per square mile, and “zone breakers” were set to no more than 25 percent of the number of households. existing buildings, and the rule that the multi-family zone must be within one mile of a transit station was designed to fit each neighborhood, he said.

Government officials offered technical assistance and other resources to the people and said they would receive them and webinars on September 8 to explain the new guidelines in detail.