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MBTA Community Initiative

Multi-Family Zoning Requirement for MBTA Communities

In January 2021, the Massachusetts legislature approved changes to the Zoning Act. The new Section 3A of M.G.L. c. 40A now 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:

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

Norwood is one of 175 municipalities in the state that is considered an MBTA Community due to its access to commuter rail. The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is overseeing compliance with these new requirements, and has issued final guidance in August 2022 on implementation. Although the implementation phase will allow for ample time for communities to pass new zoning, once it is fully operational, non compliant communities will not be eligible for various state funding programs. 

Status Updates and Resources:
DHCD issued preliminary guidelines in December 2021. You can locate that guidance here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/draft-guidelines-for-mbta-communities/download 
A memo from the Planning Department to the Planning Board describing how the guidelines apply to Norwood: Memo 3.7.22


DHCD accepted public comment on this guidance until March 31, 2022.

Final guidance was released in August 2022 and may be located here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/compliance-guidelines-for-multi-family-zoning-districts-under-section-3a-of-the-zoning-act/download

Norwood's Planning Board created an MBTA Communities Task Force to research, advise and plan for compliance with this legislation. The Task Force is comprised of representatives from the Planning Board, Planning Department, Managers' Office, Board of Selectmen, and residents at large. The Task Force will begin meeting in September 2022 to begin the process of identifying appropriate locations for the newly mandated zoning districts. Meetings will be posted on the Norwood Homepage Calendar. Updates on progress will be posted on this page. Questions about these new requirements may be directed to cped@norwoodma.gov.