Coming Soon: Multi-Family housing districts

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(Photo: MassHousing)

BOSTON (SHNS) – Acting quickly on a bill Gov. Charlie Baker signed last month, state officials this week released preliminary guidance applicable in dozens of municipalities that face a new multi-family housing requirement.

The economic development bond bill signed by Baker changes the state’s zoning enabling law and requires MBTA communities to have “at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right,” according to the state Division of Local Services.

The districts must also meet other multi-family housing criteria, including a minimum gross density of 15 units per acre; not more than half a mile from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station; no age restrictions; and suitable for families with children. The guidelines governing compliance with the new law will ultimately be issued by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, an agency that is overseen by state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Michael Kennealy.

Communities that fail to comply with the new law will lose access to state grants, although they remain eligible for grants at least until more specific guidance is made available. The requirement is likely to rile local voters since the new commitments to increase housing production, part of the broader so-called housing choices reform, are likely to be received differently in each city or town in the coming months.

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