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HBRAMA submit comments on MBTA Zoning Mandate; communities push back

By April 14, 2022May 3rd, 2022No Comments
The HBRAMA, with the assistance of Attorney Mark Kablack of Westborough, submitted detailed comments to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) regarding the Draft Guidelines for Creation of Multi-Family Districts, as issued by the department, including comments to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) available through DHCD’s website.
The HBRAMA is enthusiastic about the adoption of the Housing Choice Act that was included in Chapter 358 of the Acts of 2020. The association believes that the provision of the Housing Choice Act requiring multi-family zoning as of right in MBTA communities will have the potential of encouraging much needed housing development, providing a small but important step towards addressing the state’s housing crisis. The more notable components of the law from the HBRAMA’s perspective are: i) the scope of the mandate (applicable to 175 municipalities); ii) the timeline for adoption of action plans and final compliance; iii) the requirement for as of right development with minimum land area and density provisions; iv) the monetary disincentives for lack of compliance; and iv) the prohibition of restrictions that affect housing for families.
The HBRAMA’s comments focus on the following topics:
  • DHCD Resources for Determining Interim and Final Compliance
  • Adverse Impacts of Non-Zoning Laws and Regulations
  • Lack of Standards for Site Plan Review
  • Infrastructure Requirements
  • Affordability Requirements
  • DHCD’s Rights of Recission
DHCD’s draft guidelines, as well as the new law itself, has recently drawn strong pushback by many of the MBTA communities to which the mandate to zone for multi-family housing applies. In some towns local officials have raised the prospect of ignoring the law and foregoing state funds and grants, arguing the cost to the community in traffic, town services, infrastructure, school enrollment and environment impacts exceed the benefits of more housing. Other municipal officials are urging the department to revise the draft guidelines to drastically reduce the number of units that could be potentially developed.
The HBRAMA has urged DHCD to reject any changes to the guidelines that will undermine the effectiveness of the law in fostering needed multi-family production.
A copy of the association’s comments can be found [here].