MBTA Communities Zoning

Legislation enacted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Legislature in January 2021 requires that an “MBTA community” shall have at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right and meets other criteria set forth in the statute:

• Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre

• Located not more than 0.5 miles from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station, if applicable

• No age restrictions and suitable for families with children

An “MBTA community” is defined by reference to Section 1 of MGL c. 161A:
- one of the “14 cities and towns” that initially hosted MBTA service;
- one of the “51 cities and towns” that also host MBTA service but joined later;
- other “served communities” that abut a city or town that hosts MBTA service; or
-  a municipality that has been added to the MBTA under G.L. c. 161A, sec. 6 or in accordance with any special law relative to the area constituting the authority.

The specific requirements and exceptions to the multifamily zoning requirements for an MBTA community are based on a community designation determined by the type of transit serving the community. Additionally, each community’s minimum unit capacity is based on a percentage of its existing housing stock.  Randolph is designated as a "commuter rail" community due to it's proximity to the Randolph/Holbrook Commuter Rail Station and subject to the .  



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. Additionally, housing construction decreased dramatically in the last 20 years and there is an estimated need for 200,000 housing units.  

In a 2021 study, Mass Housing Partnership (MHP) evaluated 261 station areas in Greater Boston and found the median housing density across all station areas is roughly 6.2 homes per acre. They concluded that a modest increase to just 10 homes per acre could yield approximately 253,000 additional housing units over time. It suggested that 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 opportunity to create additional housing that is priced lower than new single-family dwellings.
  • Provides options for people who want to downsize and remain in Randolph.


There are established timelines for municipalities to adopt compliant zoning districts. MBTA communities that do not comply with Section 3A are ineligible for funding from certain funding sources provided by the Commonwealth.

Conduct a briefing with Town CouncilApril 25, 2022
Submit MBTA Community Information FormMay 2, 2022
Submit an Action Plan for interim complianceJanuary 31, 2023
Adopt a compliant district and related zoningDecember 31, 2024

Additional information

Multifamily Zoning Requirements for MBTA Communities