Section 3A - MBTA Communities

We are kicking off the planning process for Section 3A! Welcome to the landing page for all topics related to Section 3A - MBTA Communities. 

We want to hear from you! Please ask questions and share comments/feedback here! 

3A Flyers (2)

Section 3A Background

The State has created Section 3A of the Zoning Act, which states that Ipswich, along with 174 other communities in eastern Massachusetts with access to MBTA service, shall create a district or districts where multi-family housing is allowed as of right. Over the next year, the Town, supported by volunteers in the 3A Task Force, will be leading a planning process with extensive community engagement to determine the location and details of Ipswich's district(s). The result will be a zoning amendment presented to Town Meeting in Spring 2024.

The Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) posted its Final Guidelines for the Multi-Family Zoning Requirement for MBTA Communities on August 10, 2022 and revised the guidelines on October 21, 2022. The regulation, which is part of the Housing Choice Initiative enacted in an economic development bill passed in January 2021, requires MBTA communities, including Ipswich, to have at least one zoning district in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right and meets the other criteria in the statute, including:

- Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre and minimum land area of 50 acres
- 40% of the district must be located no more than ½ mile from the commuter rail station
- No age restrictions
- Suitable for families with children

Failure to comply with these multifamily zoning requirements would make a community ineligible for funds from Housing Choice Grants, Local Capital Projects Fund, and MassWorks Infrastructure Program. DHCD may, in its discretion, take non-compliance into consideration when making other discretionary grant awards.

The Town Manager appointed a 3A Task Force, supported by the Planning & Development Department, to work on Section 3A compliance for Ipswich. The group first convened in January 2023 and members' terms expire on December 31, 2024.
  • Carolyn Britt, Planning Board & Climate Resiliency Committee
  • Chase Delano, Ipswich Partnership
  • Chris Doktor, Architect 
  • Glenn Gibbs, Interim Planning Director & Zoning Specialist
  • Toni Mooradd, Planning Board
  • Sarah Player, Select Board & Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board
  • Lindsay Randall, Historical Commission 
  • Ken Redford, Housing Partnership
Below are FAQs we are getting. We will be regularly updating this list, so check back often! 

Who is deciding on a zoning district & when? 
You are! Ipswich voters will vote on a compliant zoning district in Spring 2024 Town Meeting. The 3A Task Force, with your help, is working to develop this for Ipswich. See our below project timeline for more info on the process! 

Is Section 3A a mandate from the State? 
Yes. The Attorney General issued guidance on March 15, 2023 that states that "all MBTA Communities must comply with the Law" and the Law "does not provide any mechanism by which a town or city may opt out of this requirement". It also states that MBTA Communities that "fail to comply...also risk liability under federal and state fair housing laws" and "may be subject to civil enforcement action". See the letter here.

Ipswich Project Timeline

To remain in interim compliance in 2023, communities must submit an Action Plan to DHCD. Ipswich submitted an Action Plan on January 31, 2023.

By December 31, 2024, Ipswich must submit its District Compliance Application to DHCD for their compliance determination. To do so, approval for the zoning change that complies with this regulation must be voted on and approved by Town Meeting vote. The Task Force anticipates bringing this to Spring 2024 Town Meeting.

Please see below for the current project timeline!

Much more to come! 

Please reach out with questions to Assistant Planner Andrea Bates at