Milton loses state grants over MBTA housing law noncompliance

by Liz Hughes

Milton residents are feeling the heat after voters last week voted against accepting a zoning change that would have added nearly 2,500 housing units in town.

On Wednesday, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey notified Town Administrator Nicholas Milano that the town was not in compliance with the state’s MBTA Communities law and that her office would be revoking state grant funding for the town. 

The MBTA Communities Act mandates that communities served by the MBTA permit the construction of multifamily housing near public transit stops without requiring special permits.

Last week’s vote overturned a referendum overturning the MBTA Communities Multi-family Overlay District that was passed at the town’s Dec. 11 town meeting. 

In a letter to Milano, as well as Housing and Livable Communities Secretary Ed Augustus, Healey confirmed the town is no longer eligible for a recent $140,800 grant for seawall and access improvements, a grant contingent upon the town complying with the law.

Additionally, Milton is no longer eligible to receive MassWorks and HousingWorks grants, as well as putting the community at a disadvantage when it comes to other state grant programs. 

“The law is clear — compliance with the MBTA Communities Law is mandatory,” wrote Augustus. “At this time, Milton is the only rapid transit community in Massachusetts that is not in compliance. If we do not all come together to build more housing, we will not be able to overcome our affordability crisis. We need every community to do their part.”

Following the decision the Citizens’ Housing & Planning Association (CHAPA), a leading statewide affordable housing policy organization in Massachusetts, issued a statement saying the organization was disappointed in the choice Milton voters made.

“At a time when people across income levels are feeling the pain of escalating home prices and rents, CHAPA is disappointed that Milton voters chose the status quo that keeps their gates closed and limits opportunities for people to have homes they can afford in the neighborhoods they love,” the statement read. “Milton’s vote impacts people, our region and our economy.”

Dozens of Bay State communities have already submitted applications to the state for approval of multifamily zoning districts, including Arlington, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Danvers, Dedham, Essex, Everett, Grafton, Haverhill, Lakeville, Lexington, Lowell, Malden, Mansfield, Medford, Newton, Northbridge, Pembroke, Quincy, Revere, Salem, Somerville, Stoneham, Taunton and Wareham. 

“We hope Milton residents will come together to adopt a multifamily zoning district that complies with the law and join so many other communities in saying yes to a future where everyone can thrive,” CHAPA said.

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