Housing Leaders Celebrate 12 Out of 12 MBTA Rapid Transit Communities Adopting New Zoning Ahead of Year-End Deadline

City Councils, Town Meeting members across the region vote to support thousands more homes for all

BOSTON – Leaders of housing advocacy groups today celebrated the Chelsea City Council last night who unanimously voted to pass new zoning to create more homes near transit in line with the MBTA Communities Law. With this vote, all 12 Rapid Transit Communities have met the year-end deadline to adopt new zoning – a historic feat.

The communities who have voted for new zoning (or had existing zoning they believe complies with the law) are Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Milton, Newton, Quincy, Revere, and Somerville. Their districts combined allow for a capacity of over 83,000 homes in the future. 

While all of the rapid transit communities’ zoning plans still require certification by the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, advocates nonetheless view this moment as a milestone in solving the Commonwealth’s housing crisis.

“This is a major first step taken by the urban core communities of Boston to allow zoning for more homes. Local advocacy was and will continue to be key. This is ultimately a pledge towards building more equitable, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable communities. AHMA was proud to support advocates in 7 of the 12 rapid transit communities (Brookline, Malden, Newton, Cambridge, Somerville, Milton & Medford). Grassroots organizing and advocacy was pivotal in the adoption of these new zoning bylaws. There is a continual need for education and organizing and we are proud to spearhead these efforts in collaboration with local pro-housing advocates, said Jesse Kanson-Benanav, Executive Director of Abundant Housing Massachusetts. 

“These communities are leading the way in saying yes to more housing. Zoning alone will not solve our housing shortage, but it is a critical tool for eliminating barriers to creating more housing in the places people want to live. By allowing for more housing to be built in transit-oriented neighborhoods, we are moving closer to meeting our goals for housing affordability and sustainability across the Commonwealth. CHAPA is proud to have played our part in these victories through our Municipal Engagement Initiative and our 3A Technical Assistance Program, which have supported planning and organizing efforts in Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Milton, Medford, Newton, and Revere,” said Lily Linke, MBTA Communities Engagement Manager at CHAPA. 

In addition to the Rapid Transit Communities that faced a 2023 deadline, more than a dozen additional communities have passed new zoning or had existing zoning they believe complies with the law – a year or more in advance of their own deadlines.

The MBTA Communities Law was passed in 2021 with the intention of creating more housing options for people in 177 cities and towns served by the MBTA system. While new zoning won’t require homes to be built, it will streamline the process for approval of multifamily housing – such as duplexes, townhouses, and small apartment or condo buildings – near transit stations. 

In 2024, 130 additional communities will be required to adopt new zoning, followed by 35 communities in 2025 to reach the full 177.