MBTA Communities Multi-Family Zoning

Multi-Family Zoning Requirement for MBTA Communities

Section 3A of MGL c. 40 A requires that an MBTA Community have at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right and meets other criteria set forth in the statue: 

  • Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre
  • Located not more than 0.5 miles from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station, if applicable
  • No age restrictions and suitable for families with children

The City of Methuen is classified as an “Adjacent Community” and must comply with these requirements by 12/31/24. 


2020 Housing Units

Minimum multi-family unit capacity

Minimum Land Area




50 acres


MBTA Communities that are noncompliant with Section 3A are ineligible to apply for many State grants and programs.

Why is multi-family zoning near transit and in neighboring communities important?

Massachusetts is in a housing crisis. 

  • Massachusetts has among the highest, and fastest growing, home prices and rents of any state in the nation.
  • Rising costs have dramatically increased financial pressures on low- and middle-income families, forcing them to sacrifice other priorities in order to pay housing costs. High housing costs are a primary driver of homelessness.
  • These high costs are a disadvantage as we compete economically against peer states. The risk of future job growth moving outside Massachusetts is rising due to the high costs of living.

 How does creating zoning for multi-family housing help the housing crisis?

The lack of zoning for multi-family housing is a barrier for new housing development in Massachusetts. By allowing multifamily housing near transit, we can create new housing in walkable neighborhoods closer to transit. This is not just good housing policy, it is good climate and transportation policy, too. The result of transit-oriented development is:

  • More housing closer to the places that we go every day, such as local shops, jobs, schools, restaurants, parks, etc.
  • Better access to work, services, and other destinations by increasing mobility and utilization of public transit
  • Reduced reliance on single occupancy vehicles, which helps in our larger effort to confront the climate crisis 

For more information:

See the following Methuen Television link below for the MBTA Communities Act Workshop with City Council and Land Use Boards November 14, 2023.   It will also be airing on the Government channel at 2:30 on Fridays: https://methuen-ma.viebit.com/player.php?hash=S4UagOGaL028DXXV 

MBTA Communities Presentation 2/5/24

MBTA Communities Advisory

View 2/5/24 Methuen City Council Special Meeting - MBTA Communities Information

MBTA Communities Act 101 & Implications for Methuen

Housing Working Group Meeting 2 - October 18, 2023

Multi-Family Zoning Requirement for MBTA Communities | Mass.gov

Exploring Housing at Different Densities (arcgis.com)

Why MBTA multifamily zoning law makes sense for Massachusetts (youtube.com)

Final MBTA zoning guidelines major step forward for Commonwealth - Massachusetts Housing Partnership (mhp.net)

Zoned Out: Why Massachusetts Needs to Legalize Apartments Near Transit | Boston Indicators