Press Release: 2023-03-17

Attorney General issues advisory on MBTA communities law

Attorney General issues advisory on MBTA communities law

In an advisory issued yesterday, Attorney General Andrea Campbell warned all 177 MBTA communities subject to a new multifamily zoning law that they must comply, without exception.

Section 3A of the Zoning Act (Chapter 40A), enacted as part of an economic development law in 2021, requires MBTA communities to have at least one zoning district of reasonable size near a transit station in which multifamily housing is permitted as of right.

“Compliance with the MBTA Communities Zoning Law is not only mandatory, it is an essential tool for the Commonwealth to address its housing crisis,” Campbell stated in the advisory.

All but four of the MBTA Communities have reached interim compliance by submitting an action plan before the Jan. 31 deadline.

Communities that fail to meet the timelines in the law become ineligible for funding from the state’s Local Capital Projects Fund, MassWorks grants program, and Housing Choice Initiative.

The advisory marks the first time Campbell has weighed in on the issue, and is meant to send a clear signal to communities that they must fully comply.

“Communities that fail to comply with the law may be subject to civil enforcement action,” she wrote. “MBTA Communities cannot avoid their obligations under the Law by forgoing this funding.”

Campbell added that MBTA Communities that fail to comply also risk liability under federal and state fair housing laws.

Full compliance deadlines vary by transit type, with the 12 rapid transit communities expected to be in compliance by the end of this year. Commuter rail and adjacent communities have a deadline of Dec. 31, 2024, and adjacent towns have until Dec. 31, 2025 to comply.

Written by Ali DiMatteo, Legislative Analyst