DHCD Issues Final Compliance Guidelines for Section 3A of Zoning Act

On August 10, 2022, DHCD and EOHED issued final Compliance Guidelines for Multi-Family Zoning Districts under Section 3A of the Zoning Act.  These guidelines are the end result of a process that began in December 2021 when draft guidelines were released and after subsequent outreach and collection of public comment earlier this year, including substantial input from MMLA members and an ad hoc committee our organization formed to help address the concerns of our organization and our clients.  The final Guidelines require the 175 MBTA communities to adopt multi-family zoning where multi-family is allowed “as of right” near a transit station if there is one.  Cities and towns with no transit stations are still required to adopt zoning, but have flexibility in the location.  In a letter to the 175 MBTA Communities, DHCD/EOHED summarized the following changes in the guidelines from draft to final:

  • Revised Community Categories: MBTA Communities are now categorized as rapid transit, commuter rail, adjacent, or adjacent small town. The “bus service” category has been eliminated.
  • Significant Adjustments for Small and Rural Towns with No Transit Stations: The final guidelines eliminate the minimum land area requirement and reduce the multi- family unit capacity requirement for communities with a population of less than 7,000 or less than 500 residents per square mile.
  • Changes to the Reasonable Size Criteria: The guidelines establish “circuit breakers” that prevent multi-family unit capacity from exceeding 25% of a community’s existing housing stock, or the minimum land from exceeding 1.5% of its total developable land area.
  • Tailored District Location Requirements: The portion of a multi-family zoning district that must be located within a half mile of a transit station now varies based on the amount of developable station area within each MBTA community. Communities with more developable station area land will be required to have more of their multi-family districts within a half mile of transit stations. A community with less than 100 developable acres within a half mile of a station will be free to choose any appropriate location.
  • Multi-family Unit Capacity Tool: To help communities calculate multi-family unit capacity in a consistent, transparent, and data-driven way, DHCD/EOHED built a compliance model workbook tool. The compliance model will provide a GIS land map for each municipality and calculate a zoning district’s multi-family unit capacity and gross density based on inputs provided by each community. This tool will be widely available for use in the fall.

DHCD will be presenting an explanatory webinar on September 8, 2022 at 1:00 p.m.  You can find the guidelines and related materials, including a registration link for the webinar, here on DHCD’s website.

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