MBTA Communities

Multi-Family Zoning Requirements


On January 14, 2021, Massachusetts amended its General Laws to add a new Section 3A to Chapter 40A called the “MBTA Communities Zoning Law”. This section requires MBTA Communities to have at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as-of-right (“As-of-right” means development that may proceed under a zoning bylaw without the need for a special permit, variance, zoning amendment, wavier, or other discretionary zoning approval).

The Town of Norfolk is one of the 177 Massachusetts communities impacted by this new law.   As such, the multi-family district must have the following characteristics:

  • It must be a minimum of 50 acres, half of which must be contiguous land;
  • Multi-family dwellings must be allowed at a minimum gross density of 15 units/acre;
  • The units must be suitable for families with children and no age restrictions;
  • The district should be near an existing downtown, village center, or area of underutilized/abandoned structures with redevelopment potential.

The deadline for compliance with the new law is December 31, 2024. Failure to comply will make Norfolk ineligible for certain State grants and at risk of civil enforcement under Federal and State Fair Housing Laws. See the Attorney General's Advisory Concerning Enforcement of the MBTA Communities Zoning Law

This is NOT a housing production mandate. To comply with the new 3A law, Norfolk must simply rezone 50 acres of land, which, in addition to the existing and allowed zoning uses, also allows multi-family housing by right. There is no State-mandated affordability component, but the State does allow communities to have up to 10% of housing units built through MBTA Zoning as Affordable units – the remaining 90% must remain market-rate.


The Town was selected to participate in an MBTA Zoning Compliance Technical Assistance (3A-TA) program through the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP). Through this program, the Town was partnered with Horsley Witten Group to go through the Compliance Model using different scenarios and parcels to determine the best possible mix.

MBTA Zoning Articles for the Plannng Board's public hearing to be held on 5-2-24
MBTA Presentation 5-1-24
MBTA Action Plan
Norfolk Interim Compliance Approval Letter
MBTA Compliance Guidelines
MBTA Zoning Requirements Final Guidelines Presentation
Horsley Witten Group
Proposed Zoning Map May 15, 2024 Town Meeting
MBTA Overlay Districts
Mandatory Mixed Use 3A Guideline Revision
MBTA Mandatory Mixed Use Determination
Inclusionary Bylaw History