EOHLC Releases Additional Guidelines on MBTA Multifamily (3A) law
On August 17th, the Healey Administration issued additional guidelines to the MBTA Multi-family zoning law (3A). The guidelines add 13 state funding programs that MBTA communities will be eligible for upon achieving compliance and allow MBTA communities the option to require ground-floor commercial space in multi-family buildings in up to 25% of their multi-family districts. Because commercial requirements can drive up the cost of housing production and make projects unfeasible, communities are required to get approval from EOHLC before the community votes on the zoning proposal.
CHAPA is advocating for the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) to quickly establish clear criteria for communities around this new option. With deadlines quickly approaching for communities to have their multi-family zoning districts in place, communities need a clear understanding of whether or not this option is something they should consider. All MBTA communities can continue to offer incentives for mixed-use development, such as allowing increased density and height to make mixed-use development possible.
Here is a summary of the revision to the guidelines:
1. Allow an MBTA community to “offset” the minimum multi-family unit capacity requirement in certain multi-family zoning district(s) by up to 25%, based on the unit capacity of a mixed-use zoning district that meets key requirements of Section 3A and the Guidelines, but for requiring a ground floor non-residential component. Such “offset” – only available where existing village-style or downtown development is essential to preserve pedestrian access to amenities – still requires a municipality to demonstrate the same total amount of unit capacity.
2. Protect the financial feasibility of achieving housing goals where mixed-use zoning requires groundfloor non-residential uses by (i) setting forth location criteria for mixed-use development districts and requiring that EOHLC has pre-approved the location before the MBTA community’s vote on its zoning changes; (ii) capping the percentage floor area of each development that may be required to be non-residential (ground floor only); (iii) requiring a broad mix of non-residential uses allowed as of right; and (iv) prohibiting minimum parking requirements for non-residential uses.
3. Allow MBTA communities to locate more housing in walkable and transit-oriented neighborhoods without jeopardizing existing non-residential resources and amenities. Many MBTA communities expressed a desire to locate districts in village-style or downtown neighborhoods but feared that allowing multi-family housing as of right in those areas could risk a loss of existing businesses and buildings. Many residents expressed a desire to live in village-style, downtown, and transit-oriented neighborhoods.
4. Add a list of thirteen discretionary grant programs to Section 9 to alert MBTA communities of additional grant programs that will consider compliance with Section 3A in making grant awards.
The programs added by the revised guidelines (in addition to the Local Capital Project Fund, Housing Choice grants, and MassWorks infrastructure grant) are:
• Community Planning Grants
• Massachusetts Downtown Initiative
• Urban Agenda
• Rural and Small Town Development Fund
• Brownfields Redevelopment Fund
• Site Readiness Program
• Underutilized Properties Program
• Collaborative Workspace Program
• Real Estate Services Technical Assistance
• Commonwealth Places Programs
• Land Use Planning Grants
• Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity
• Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Planning and Project Grants
Refer to the detailed language of the guidelines.