MBTA Communities Multi-Family Zoning

In January 2021, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Legislature passed economic development legislation requiring all "MBTA Communities" to develop at least one zoning district within .5 miles of transit that legalizes multi-family housing permitted by right. This housing must be:

  • Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre
  • Located not more than .5 miles from a transit station
  • No age restriction and suitable for families with children

The Town of Andover is classified as an MBTA Commuter Rail Community due to the MBTA commuter rail stations located along the Haverhill Commuter Rail Line. The final guidelines for Andover require the following: 

Andover MBTA Communities requirements


According to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), 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. These high costs are a disadvantage as Massachusetts competes economically against peer states. The risk of future job growth moving outside Massachusetts is rising due to the high costs of living. The lack of zoning for multi-family housing is a barrier for new housing development in Massachusetts. By allowing multifamily housing near transit:

  • New housing can be created in walkable neighborhoods closer to transit, which means that more people will be more likely to walk or bike and have easier access to employment and amenities
  • Provides an avenue to create additional housing that is priced lower than new single-family dwellings
  • Provide more options for people who want to downsize in Andover, or to move to Andover


The Guidelines establish timelines for municipalities to adopt compliant zoning districts. MBTA communities that are noncompliant with Section 3A are ineligible for funding from certain funding sources provided by the Commonwealth. There are two forms of compliance, district (or “full compliance”) and interim compliance. To remain eligible for the calendar year 2023 round of MassWorks and Housing Choice grants, as well as the Local Capital Projects Fund, an MBTA community must submit an Action Plan no later than January 31, 2023. 

Compliance Timeline for MBTA Communities
Deadline for Interim ComplianceJanuary 31, 2023
Deadline for DHCD Approval of Action PlanJuly 1, 2023
Deadline for Adopting New ZoningDecember 31, 2024

Andover MBTA Communities Working Group

 The Working Group will work the Planning Division Staff to:

  • Conduct outreach to the community to determine district location(s) and form
  • Analyze feedback from the community and identify ways to achieve compliance with MGL Ch. 40A, Section 3a. 
  • Suggest ways to incorporate recommendations from existing Plans into MBTA Communities zoning using community feedback
  • Assist in identifying ways to develop zoning regulations that will both be appropriate for Andover, and meet the requirements set forth by the State

The Andover MBTA Community meets the second and fourth Thursday of every month. Next meeting date: September 14, 2023 at 6:30 pm.

Click here for more information about the MBTA Communities Working Group

Working Group Documents