State Law, Correspondence & Submittals

What is the MBTA-CA mandate for for Brookline?

  1. Zone a minimum of 41 acres near rapid transit to allow multifamily housing without discretionary permits or waivers 
  2. Zoning must achieve a theoretical capacity of 6,990 units
  3. Zoning shall be implemented by 12/31/2023 or the Town is subject to possible legal action by Attorney General
  4. All uses are allowed; no uses are prohibited

State Guidelines

Enacted as part of the economic development bill in January 2021, this new regulation requires that an MBTA community shall have at least one zoning district in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right (i.e., does not require a discretionary permit such as a Special Permit) and meets other criteria set forth in the statute:

  1. Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre
  2. Not more than ½ mile from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station, if applicable.
  3. No age restrictions
  4. Suitable for families with children.

On August 17, 2023, the Executive Office of Housing & Livable Communities (EOHLC) released an amendment to their Guidelines for the Multi-Family Zoning Requirement for MBTA Communities, now allowing partial compliance in districts where ground floor commercial space is required. In summary, areas that require ground floor commercial space may be counted towards the required theoretical number of multifamily unit calculation, but not the required minimum land area.

What does this mean for Brookline?

The Department of Planning and Community Development in 2022 analyzed the differences between the Town’s current Zoning By-Law and the MBTA Communities requirements and presented those options to the Select Board. Following a series of meetings with Boards, Town Meeting members, and other residents, the Select Board agreed to move forward with a strategy that focuses on Harvard Street as the key path to compliance as well as meaningful affordable housing production. The Select Board voted to submit warrant articles to the November 2023 Special Town Meeting: one is a consensus article that includes Harvard Street zoning, an overlay for many Multifamily District parcels, and an amendment to the Emerald Island Overlay District; the fallback plan does not include Harvard Street zoning changes. Both will likely require a 2/3 vote at Town Meeting.

The state continues to remind communities that this is a requirement (see question E4 at State's FAQs, interview with Attorney General Campbell on February 17, 2023 - jump to timestamp 19:00, and memo from Town Counsel). The Town of Brookline needs to adopt zoning changes to come into compliance no later than December 31, 2023.

Correspondence with the State

04.24.2023 Select Board Letter to State Legislature

03.28.2023 Select Board Letter to EOHLC (formerly DHCD)

03.15.2023 Attorney General Advisory on Compliance

01.17.2023 Submission of required action plan to Executive Office of Housing & Livable Communities (EOHLC) and 1/27/23 approval

05.02.2022 Submission of required initial information to EOHLC