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MBTA Zoning & MHP's Complete Neighborhoods Initiative


MHP's technical assistance for MBTA communities is part of its Complete Neighborhoods Initiative, which supports the Baker Administration and state legislature's efforts to build more multifamily housing near transit, jobs and services.

MHP's Complete Neighborhoods Initiative has three components:

  1. MBTA Zoning Compliance Technical Assistance: ("3A TA"): Provides training, online resources and technical assistance to MBTA communities to meet the new multifamily zoning requirement for MBTA communities.
  2. Complete Neighborhoods Partnership: Provides expertise in planning, community engagement and predevelopment activities within targeted districts to build local capacity and readiness for investment.
  3. Capital Investment: Subsidies for the creation of low- and moderate-income housing in proximity to transit nodes.

The following explains each part of this initiative:

1. MBTA Zoning Compliance Technical Assistance (“3A-TA”)

This program will support MBTA communities seeking to comply with the new provision in the $262 million Economic Development Bond Bill signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2021. This bill included modifications to the state's zoning act (Chapter 40A, Section 18), adding a new section (3A) which directs the 175 MBTA communities that have some level of access to public transit to adopt a zoning ordinance or bylaw that creates at least one district of reasonable size where multi-family housing is permitted by right.

In accordance with the new law, the state has developed draft compliance guidelines. Released for public comment on Dec. 15, 2021, these guidelines are based on the principle that communities that benefit from having access and/or proximity to public transit should “provide the opportunity for multi-family housing around these assets at a scale, density and character consistent with the community’s planning goals.” The draft guidelines will be open for public comment through March 31, 2022. Public comment can be made through this online form.

Given the scope of this provision and diverse range of communities, MHP is developing the 3A-TA Support Program for MBTA Communities, in collaboration with Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The 3A-TA program components will include:

  • Training webinars: MHP will develop a series of instructional webinars for representatives from MBTA communities that will be held live (virtually). 3A-TA webinars will complement, and not duplicate, DHCD outreach on broad Section 3A goals and technical compliance requirements by providing “how-to” instruction relative to activities necessary to attain compliance, including mapping district boundaries build-out analysis, crafting the by-law or ordinance and building community support. Trainings will be led by MHP and will feature case studies and participation from subject matter experts.
  • 3A-TA Information Clearinghouse: MHP will create a 3A-TA Clearinghouse with information to help communities comply with the new requirements. This will include Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), Best Practices, a model by-law or ordinance, sample talking points and action plans. In addition, as individual communities move forward with a compliance effort, our goal would be to provide relevant materials, including consultant scopes of work, talking points, outreach material, and community-specific by-laws and ordinances. Training resources will be developed in collaboration with DHCD’s Community Services Division, and will complement and enhance other means of support and guidance available from DHCD, Citizens Planning Training Collaborative (CPTC), the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) and other partners. Once created, all webinars and training materials will be available for public access on MHP's web site and on MHP’s Housing Toolbox website.
  • Community specific 3A-TA Technical Assistance Awards: Starting in the spring of 2022, MHP will provide direct technical assistance to a limited number of communities in response to requests from municipalities related to efforts to comply with Section 3A. Assistance will be provided by MHP staff or by third-party consultants. Eligible activities could include drafting or amending bylaw/ordinance, drawing district boundaries and mapping, build-out analysis, community outreach and preliminary compliance review assistance in collaboration with DHCD.

Related resources

More information: Email MHP Senior Planner, Katy Lacy at klacy@mhp.net.

2. Complete Neighborhoods Partnership

To complement the new MBTA communities zoning requirement and to promote the development of walkable neighborhoods across the Commonwealth, MHP is offering The Complete Neighborhoods Partnership. This program concentrates technical assistance, resources, and investments within designated districts over multiple years to support the creation of mobility-rich, mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods. It is available to all communities in the Commonwealth.

Budget and Schedule: The program will select up to 12 communities to receive up to $150,000 each in technical assistance for a total of $1.8 million over a five-year period of the program. Six will be selected in 2022 and six in 2023. Services will be performed by MHP staff and/or third-party consultants. No direct funds will be awarded to selected communities.

Selection Process: Applications will be conducted on a competitive basis. Communities will have up to four weeks from the date the call for proposals is issued to submit an application online. During this period, the program manager will be available to answer questions about the program and the application process.

Applications will be evaluated by a committee consisting of state and quasi-public agencies who are involved in housing and economic development policies and programs. Award decisions will be guided by the applicant community’s economic conditions, demographic profile, development opportunities, local capacity, readiness to proceed, and impact of COVID-19.

Eligible Uses: Funds can be used for predevelopment, policy development, community engagement, or financial analyses. MHP Community Assistance staff will provide support throughout the program.

Post Selection: Following award announcements, primary contacts of awardees will work with MHP’s program manager to execute memoranda of agreement. Each community will identify key stakeholders to assemble a local partnership, which will serve as the steering committee for grant activities. The program manager will work with each partnership to develop a work plan for the grant period (2.5 years).

More information: Contact MHP Senior Development Manager Christine Madore at cmadore@mhp.net.

3. Capital Investment

The economic development bill included a $50 million allocation to “support the creation of low-income and moderate-income housing in close proximity to transit nodes.”

MHP is working in collaboration with DHCD to review eligible developments and make funding recommendations based on the goals of the enabling act, the Complete Neighborhoods Partnership and other transit-oriented development principles. For more information, contact MHP Director of Lending & Chief Credit Officer Megan Mulcahy at mmulcahy@mhp.net.