No Direct MBTA Services, but West Newbury Receives Grant to Comply with Transit-Related Housing Law

Gov. Charlie Baker. (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

Although it has no MBTA commuter rail or bus service within its borders, West Newbury was awarded a $67,500 state grant Wednesday to help it comply with a new Multifamily Zoning Requirement for MBTA Communities.

As WHAV previously reported, the Housing Choice law, part of an economic development bill signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in January of 2021, requires multi-family housing be allowed by right with a minimum gross density of 15 units per acre and without age restrictions. So-called “MBTA adjacent” communities such as West Newbury, Methuen and Groveland must designate districts that would accommodate a minimum 10% of its total housing stock for multi-family units.

“The Community One Stop for Growth application portal provides a front door for 12 state programs that exist to help communities tackle local economic development projects,” Baker said during a ceremony in Lenox. “Among those programs, the Rural and Small Town Development Fund is delivering nearly $5 million across 25 communities this year to support high-impact capital and community planning projects in many of our smallest and most rural towns.”

Although West Newbury must plan for housing, draft guidelines note, “It is important to understand that a multi-family district’s unit capacity is not a mandate to construct a specified number of housing units, nor is it a housing production target.”

State Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox said, “We are excited to advance these 25 projects in our smaller communities where roadway, sewer, and other small infrastructure projects can unlock substantial housing and business opportunities for residents.”

The Rural and Small Town Development Fund provides grants for capital and community planning projects in rural and small towns—towns with populations less than 7,000 or with a population density of less than 500 persons per square mile. Grants are awarded based on a project’s nexus with housing, transportation, infrastructure, economic development, community development and priorities identified by the Commonwealth’s Rural Policy Advisory Commission.

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