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Frequently Asked Questions about the
MBTA Communities Law

What is the MBTA Communities Law?

  • The MBTA Communities Law is a bipartisan law passed by the legislature and signed by then-Gov. Charlie Baker in January 2021 to address the regional housing crisis affecting metropolitan Boston.

  • It requires 177 towns served by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, including Milton, to adopt zoning that allows as of right development of multi-family housing in districts within half a mile of commuter rail, subway, and bus stations and ferry terminals.

  • The law requires that districts be at least 50 acres, allow at least 15 units per acre, be suitable for families with children, and carry no age restrictions.

  • “Multi-family housing” means a building with 3 or more residential dwelling units or 2 or more buildings on the same lot with more than 1 residential dwelling unit in each building.

Why was the law passed?

  • Massachusetts has among the highest and fastest growing home prices and rents of any state in the nation.

  • These high costs are pricing families out of communities, preventing older adults from downsizing, creating challenges for local employers, and causing many people to move to other states where housing is more affordable.[i]

  • Our regional housing crisis results from multiple factors, including inadequate housing supply and exclusionary zoning by suburban Boston communities.  Milton, like other MBTA communities, uses zoning to prohibit most multi-family housing. About 78% of Milton homes are single family.[ii]

What are the benefits of the law for Milton?

  • Increasing the diversity of housing options will enable older adults o downsize and continue to live in Milton.

  • Increasing our supply of smaller units—such as duplexes, townhouses, and small apartment or condo buildings—will help moderate prices and make home ownership more affordable for young families and town employees.

  • Additional housing close to public transit will promote small business development, strengthen our local economy, preserve green space, and lower Milton’s carbon emissions.

  • Increasing the supply of affordable housing will promote equity and strengthen the town’s diversity.

Is it true we have a choice about whether to comply with the law?

  • “All MBTA Communities must comply with the Law,” according to the state Attorney General, who also emphasizes, “MBTA Communities cannot avoid their obligations under the Law” by forgoing state funding programs linked with compliance.[iii]

  • The Attorney general has warned that communities that fail to comply with the law risk civil enforcement action and risk liability under federal and state fair housing laws.  Note this letter sent to the Select Board on January 16.

  • Legal defense for non-compliance would place unnecessary financial burdens on taxpayers.

How does the law affect Milton?

  • Milton is defined as a “rapid transit community” because we have four MBTA trolley stops in Town.  Under the law, our zoning must allow at least 25% of total units to be multi-family.

  • Milton has 9,844 housing units, so our zoning must allow for at least 2,461 multi-family units.[iv]  The net number of new units will be lower, because existing homes count toward the total required.

  • The law doesn’t require these homes to be built, just allowed through zoning. The town is working on a plan to ensure change will be gradual.

Can we be reclassified to change our responsibilities under the law?

  • The Select Board asked state officials to justify why we are classified as a “rapid transit community,” and the Planning Board asked for Milton to be reclassified as an “adjacent community.”

  • Reclassification would lower the number of multi-family units required under new zoning and extend the time available for compliance.

  • The state’s response confirms our status and provides no option for reclassification.


What parts of town will be zoned to comply with the law?

  • Town elected officials are working with staff from the Milton Department of Planning and Community Development and professional consultants to refine a zoning article to be approved by Town Meeting. Here is a link to the map that illustrates the main rapid transit corridor. (Also at

  • About half of the district will be along the Eliott Street corridor, within half a mile of the MBTA trolley stops.  Additional sub-districts are being planned near East Milton Square, Granite Ave., upper Blue Hills Parkway, and close to the Mattapan trolley stop.[v]


What does “as of right” housing development mean?

  • “As of right” guarantees multi-family housing may be built in districts created under the new zoning law and within rules approved by Town Meeting.

  • Developers or homeowners who choose to redevelop their own properties will be able to develop multi-family housing that complies with the new zoning without special variances.


What does the law NOT do?

  • The law does not mandate construction of any new housing.

  • It does not dictate what type of multi-family housing may be permitted under new zoning.

  • It does not open the floodgates for developers to start tearing down single-family homes.  In fact, town officials are carefully developing plans to avoid tear-downs.


When must Milton comply with the law?

  • Because Milton is classified as a rapid transit community, we must pass new zoning to comply with the MBTA Communities law by December 31, 2023.

  • A special Town Meeting is scheduled for December 4 to approve a zoning article to comply with the law.


How can I find out more?

  • The Milton Department of Planning and Community Development website is the best source of clear, objective information about how the law affects Milton and how the Town is planning to comply. The Department also periodically provides detailed information at public forums.

  • EOHLC also provides valuable information on its website.

  • The Milton Times is providing detailed coverage of work by the Select Board and Planning Board to comply with the law, along with citizen commentary from different perspectives.

  • Contact Affordable Inclusive Milton (AIM) at to support compliance.







More information is available on the News and Resources page

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