Summary of 08/17/23 Revisions to Section 3A Guidelines

Below you will find the August 17, 2023 Summary of Revisions to Section 3A guidelines.

The following Summary of Revisions are also available as a PDF.

Table of Contents

Revisions to Section 3A Compliance Guidelines

TO: Municipal Officials in MBTA Communities

FROM: Secretary Edward M. Augustus, Jr.

DATE: August 17, 2023

RE: Revisions to Section 3A Compliance Guidelines


On August 10, 2022, EOHLC released Compliance Guidelines for Multi-Family Zoning Districts Under Section 3A of the Zoning Act (the “Guidelines”).  One revision was made in October 2022. This is a summary of the second change.  In response to feedback from municipal leaders in several MBTA communities, EOHLC is revising the Guidelines to offer MBTA communities a path to receive some credit for mixed-use development zoning districts. The revision also specifies how Section 3A compliance may affect certain discretionary grant award decisions. These revisions:

  1. Allow an MBTA community to “offset” the minimum multi-family unit capacity requirement in certain multi-family zoning district(s) by up to 25%, based on the unit capacity of a mixed-use zoning district that meets key requirements of Section 3A and the Guidelines, but for requiring a ground floor non-residential component.  Such “offset” – only available where existing village-style or downtown development is essential to preserve pedestrian access to amenities – still requires a municipality to demonstrate the same total amount of unit capacity.
  1. Protect the financial feasibility of achieving housing goals where mixed-use zoning requires ground-floor non-residential uses by (i) setting forth location criteria for mixed-use development districts and requiring that EOHLC has pre-approved the location before the MBTA community’s vote on its zoning changes; (ii) capping the percentage floor area of each development that may be required to be non-residential (ground floor only); (iii) requiring a broad mix of non-residential uses allowed as of right; and (iv) prohibiting minimum parking requirements for non-residential uses. 
  1. Allow MBTA communities to locate more housing in walkable and transit-oriented neighborhoods without jeopardizing existing non-residential resources and amenities. Many MBTA communities expressed a desire to locate districts in village-style or downtown neighborhoods but feared that allowing multi-family housing as of right in those areas could risk a loss of existing businesses and buildings. Many residents expressed a desire to live in village-style, downtown, and transit-oriented neighborhoods.
  1. Add a list of thirteen discretionary grants programs to Section 9 to alert MBTA communities of additional grant programs that will consider compliance with Section 3A in making grant awards.

These revisions to the Guidelines are intended to provide greater flexibility to MBTA communities to adopt new zoning districts in mixed-use neighborhoods, and to promote housing opportunities for residents in such neighborhoods.  The revisions do not reduce the total unit capacity required by the Guidelines.

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