Impact Engines | Equitable Zoning by Design

Equitable Zoning by Design

Equitable Zoning by Design supports zoning for multi-family housing in transit-friendly mixed-use areas. The project will help stakeholders to understand how zoning impacts the design of the built environment and make recommendations for best practices in zoning. 


The Boston region is experiencing a housing crisis. Over-restriction of housing development has caused a shortage, and fueled price escalations. Moreover, zoning laws have increased the environmental impacts of growth, undermined the viability of public transportation, and led to poor design of properties and neighborhoods. 


Boston’s suburbs have been over-restricting the development of multi-family housing for decades. In 2021, the CommonWealth of Massachusetts adopted the MBTA Communities Zoning Law to require cities and towns served by the MBTA to allow transit-oriented multi-family housing on their zoning maps. Even with this mandate, local reform is politically challenging, for many reasons. One major barrier to reform is that the vast majority of people do not understand what the zoning rules mean for the built environment that the zoning rules regulate. This lack of understanding makes decisionmakers hesitant to affirmatively support change.


Equitable Zoning by Design aims to help government officials and public stakeholders to understand the physical and spatial implications of zoning regulations, especially in transit-oriented and walkable mixed-use hubs. The project is assisting Canton, Framingham, and Ipswich in their real time efforts to adopt zoning in compliance with the MBTA Communities zoning law that Massachusetts adopted in 2021. This assistance includes the creation of visualizations of residential build-outs on specific sites within the areas being considered for rezoning, zoning maps and site specific 3D diagrams, and targeted spatial urban design recommendations. These graphics will also be used by the participating planning departments for local public education about zoning reform and to inform local decisions about zoning alternatives. The project is meant to inform and inspire zoning reform in these communities that will result in a more equitable and sensitive design of buildings, properties, and neighborhoods across the Commonwealth.


The visual material and associated regulatory recommendations generated by the project team will convince otherwise skeptical planning board members and engaged citizens that appropriately-scaled and -designed  multifamily housing can result from new thoughtfully-conceived regulations. The project will also generate recommendations and materials useful to zoning reformers across the region, and country.


Tim Love FAIA, Principal Investigator

Associate Professor, Northeastern University School of Architecture, Affiliated Professor, School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs

Amy Dain, Project Manager

Independent Researcher, author of “Exclusionary by Design,” November 2023

Sam Naylor, AIA, Lead Designer

Associate, Utile, Co-editor of “The State of Housing Design 2023”

Camille Wimpe, Research Assistant

Northeastern University Undergraduate Class of 2024, pursuing a B.S. in Architecture


Northeastern Ecosystem
  • School of Architecture
  • Department of Art & Design
  • School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs
External Partnerships
  • Town of Canton, MA

  • Town of Ipswich, MA

  • City of Framingham, MA

  • Mass Housing Partnership


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