Boston’s Zoning Code Set for First Major Update in 60 Years

1 min read
September 15, 2023

Overview: A recent report commissioned by the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) has triggered the first significant update to Boston’s aging zoning code in over 60 years. The move addresses concerns the report raises on current regulations hindering residential development.


  • Report Insights: Authored by Sara Bronin of the National Zoning Atlas, the report criticized the city’s existing zoning code for its “extreme length and inconsistencies.” It pointed out that such complexities prevent most residents from understanding the code. The consequence is an uphill battle for the city in creating new housing units and necessitating residents to seek legal help for minor modifications to their homes or businesses.
  • Mayor’s Stance: Mayor Michelle Wu emphasized the crucial role of city governance in shaping neighborhood growth. Wu criticized the existing system, citing its “confusing and inconsistent process of handing out exceptions.” By reforming the current system, Wu believes that Boston can offer a more predictable and equitable structure that aligns with the community’s needs.
  • Comparison: At nearly 4,000 pages, Boston’s zoning code is about 40% lengthier than New York City’s. This is significant given that New York has a population 13 times larger and six times the land area. The last comprehensive update to Boston’s code dates back to 1964.
  • Zoning Code Challenges: The BPDA asserts that the code’s length doesn’t offer clarity. Instead, it impedes residents from engaging in the planning process and complicates the housing development process.
  • Future Plans: Arthur Jemison, Chief of Planning, committed to the report’s recommendations. Jemison emphasized the necessity for a contemporary zoning code to establish a solid framework for growth.
  • Restructured Planning Department: As part of the initiative, the city announced restructuring the Planning Department. It will feature new teams dedicated to zoning reform, compliance, and comprehensive planning, replacing the previous neighborhood planning division.

Looking Ahead: With the city’s commitment to revamp the outdated zoning code, the upcoming changes are expected to pave the way for a more accessible and efficient housing development process in Boston.

Previous Story

California Senate Passed SB 799; The bill’s fate lies in Newsom’s hands.

Next Story

Australia’s Paid Parental Leave (PPL) policy leaves Multiple Birth Families behind.

Discover more from Stop Population Decline

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue Reading

Don't Miss


Zoning Reform Passed: St. Paul Greenlights Multi-Family Housing

What’s new:  After delaying zoning reforms for a week, the St.
adult affection baby child

Cash Transfers Enable Grandparents to Help Their Children & Grandchildren

Cash transfers, particularly in low and middle-income countries, directly target