Source: MetroWest Daily News —
As more than 170 Massachusetts cities and towns begin drafting proposals to comply with the state’s new multifamily housing requirements, city planners and business leaders say commercial real estate could play a significant role in those rezoning plans.
The multifamily housing legislation that was passed under Gov. Charlie Baker, commonly known as the MBTA Communities Act, requires cities and towns served by the MBTA to incorporate at least one zoning district of “reasonable size” that allows by-right development of at least 15 housing units per acre.
But the new law also allows communities to permit mixed-use projects — such as commercial or ground floor retail spaces — by right in the new multifamily districts, meaning they do not need to undergo a discretionary review process for approval.
Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, said the law will have a major positive impact on commercial development in the commonwealth, in addition to providing more housing.
“There was no way that we could not embrace something like this that allowed for ground floor retail,” he said. “Because it really builds communities. It’s great for businesses, it’s great for people and it gives a lot of ability for people in those communities to even start businesses.”
‘Clear and concise’ regulations for developers to follow
In contrast with current zoning standards in many communities, where developers frequently must apply for zoning variances or special permits — processes that often stall or even kill construction — Vasil said one of the new law’s primary advantages for developers is that it provides regulations that are “clear and concise so that they know exactly what they can do under the rules.”
“This law is an attempt to get sort of out of that whole Massachusetts (system) where everything gets funneled to a regulatory body where it can get gunked up and slowed down,” Vasil said. “And instead (transitioning) to one where: this is what the rule is, and everybody’s treated the same based on this rule.”