When Governor Baker signed a historic economic development bill earlier this year, a great deal of attention was brought to its revision of the approval threshold for housing development projects. Transitioning from a two-thirds requirement to a simple majority made it significantly easier for developers to construct housing in communities across the commonwealth, a subject we explored at the time. But while this change has been the biggest in terms of housing policy, other less attention-grabbing reforms are poised to reshape the development landscape in cities and towns of all sizes.
One of these reforms- which was recently profiled by the Boston Globe – requires communities with an MBTA train station (a criterion that applies 175 towns around Greater Boston) to update their zoning laws to permit multifamily apartment housing within half a mile of those rail stops. It’s a seismic change with the potential to unlock thousands of new housing units in places previously all but forbidden to developers. It’s also still up in the air, as key details in the rule have yet to be clarified by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
The law’s impact could be mild or profound, depending on the number of units DHCD decides to mandate, how close they must be to the T, and what percentage of those units must be designated as affordable. Though affordable housing has an important role to play in addressing the housing crisis, most experts agree that expanding market-rate housing for renters across the income spectrum is the only way to lower costs for everyone.
At BG, we have years of experience in helping developers get all kinds of housing projects rezoned, permitted, and built. This new legislative push for greater Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is a tremendous opportunity for developers to explore new markets and conceive projects never previously seen as viable, and we’re here to help. As the state clarifies the new regulations pertaining to this push for TOD, we can be your partner in bringing new projects to life and introducing them to communities grappling with the changes to their zoning landscape.
As we have written in the past, successful developers keep an eye on upcoming changes to local zoning when planning their next move. A big change is on the horizon for housing across Massachusetts- and now is the time to act on it.