The MBTA Communities Act requires towns and cities that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority serves to incorporate at least one reasonably sized zoning district that allows by-right development of at least 15 housing units per acre. Because the new law permits communities to zone for mixed-use projects to meet this requirement, many communities expect commercial real estate developers to play a big role in meeting the new zoning requirements.
How may the new law impact commercial development in the state?
Increase in ground-floor retail
Community planners believe that embracing mixed-use projects, such as ground-floor retail, will be good for both commercial developers and people who need housing. Ground-floor retail projects help build communities and provide opportunities for community members to start businesses.
Fewer regulatory roadblocks
Zoning standards that require commercial developers to apply for zoning variances or special permits often serve as roadblocks. The new law provides clear and concise regulations for developers to follow. This may make it easier for many projects to proceed without running into regulatory hurdles.
The new zoning rules should increase the housing supply by making it easier for developers to build housing where people want to live. The ability to also add commercial projects will make it possible to create entire new neighborhoods.
However, not all communities may embrace the mixed-use model. While the law permits mixed-use projects to meet the housing requirements, it does not require them. Some communities may opt out. Ultimately, it will be up to individual communities to determine how to best meet their housing and commercial needs.