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The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Town Meeting to vote on Brookline’s compliance with MBTA Communities Act

From Tuesday, Nov. 14 until mid-December, Brookline Town Meeting will vote on which proposal, if any, to adopt in compliance with the MBTA Communities Act. The Act, which was adopted in January 2021, aims to promote compact housing near public transit to reduce car usage and energy consumption by increasing transit accessibility.

In late November, the Brookline Town Meeting will hold a vote that will change the landscape of the town for years to come. The town has until Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024 to comply with the MBTA Communities Act, a state law that was adopted in January 2021.

The MBTA Communities Act requires towns served by the MBTA, including the subway train system, bus routes, the commuter rail and the ferry, to “create at least one district of reasonable size” within half a mile of the rapid transit system, in which multi-family housing is permitted by right. In other words, people have a right to construct multi-family housing within the “district of reasonable size,” which the town gets to outline. The act is intended to foster the development of dense housing centralized around public transit with the hope that more people living closer to public transit will result in fewer people driving cars and less energy used.

Starting the third week of November and continuing into December, Town Meeting will hold a vote on how to comply with the act.

There are three main proposals that have been brought forth. Each plan outlines specific districts (parcels of land) in which multi-family housing will be allowed by right. These districts would not require the construction of multi-family housing, but would allow for its construction, while some other districts will continue to be legally bound to single-family housing.

One proposal, brought by the advocacy group Yes! In Brookline, advocated for multi-family housing by right along the Harvard Street corridor, an area with higher turnover and buildings that are more likely to be redeveloped. A second proposal, brought by the advocacy group Brookline by Design, advocated for multi-family housing by right away from Harvard Street, in areas with lower turnover rates and older homes that are less likely to be redeveloped. The third proposal was championed by the Select Board and was intended to serve as a compromise between the two other proposals.

The compromise proposal was then further modified on Tuesday, Oct. 17th when the two groups came to an agreement: a modified version of the Select Board’s compromise. The agreement includes parts of both group’s original proposals, including multi-family housing by right on and away from Harvard Street. The agreement also includes special authorization for ground-level commercial use along Harvard Street, a provision meant to ensure that the authorization of residential construction along Harvard Street would not take away from the commercial aspect of the neighborhood. If approved, the agreement is expected to create around 900 new housing units.

On Sunday, Oct. 20, the two groups put out a joint statement announcing the consensus they had reached.

“[The agreement] creates additional housing opportunities at a range of income levels, supports commerce along our main street corridor and presents us with an important opportunity to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” the statement read. “Yes! in Brookline and Brookline by Design are pleased to have come to agreement on this proposed version and recommend our colleagues in Town Meeting vote in favor of the amended Article as written.”

Town Meeting will convene on Tuesday, Nov. 14 and is expected to run through mid-December. All of the proposals mentioned above will come before the body. At these meetings, Town Meeting members will vote on which proposal to adopt, if any. If the town has not established interim or permanent compliance with the act by the end of January, the Brookline Housing Authority, which runs the town’s affordable housing programs, will lose grant funding from The Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Regardless of which proposal Town Meeting adopts, this decision will shape the future of the Town architecturally and consequently in population and population density.

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