HOLDEN, Mass. - The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office said the Town of Holden must do more when it comes to allowing multifamily homes.

In 2021 former Gov. Charlie Baker implemented MBTA Community Zoning Laws for cities and towns that have access to the MBTA. Holden is one of those town. This week, the attorney general's office issued a warning: the town needs to get in compliance. Town officials do not agree.

What You Need To Know

  • The Baker administration issued laws to require multi-family zoning in MBTA towns

  • Holden falls under law because of proximity to Worcester's commuter rail line

  • The Attorney General's Office issued a statement that Holden must comply with the laws

  • Holden officials disagree with interpretation of the law

The MBTA Community Zoning Laws require that towns with access to the MBTA allow zoning for multi-family homes. Holden’s proximity to Worcester’s commuter line stop is what makes the town have to comply.

“I think one really important aspect for everyone to know about this law is that it is a law that is mandating zoning,” said Jesse Kanson-Benanv, executive director of Abundant Housing Massachusetts. “Its only a zoning mandate, it doesn’t necessarily require production. In the case of Holden, they are required to zone for 750 new homes, it doesn’t mean that 750 homes will be built.”

Of the 177 cities and towns that fall under this law, all but four submitted action plans, although three did so after the January 31 deadline. Holden was one of the communities that didn’t submit a plan at all. Now the attorney general’s office is threatening potential lawsuits or loss of funding.

The Holden Housing Authority is managed by the Worcester Housing Authority. Chief Executive Officer Alex Corrales said that loss of funding is a very scary threat.

“We don’t have the funding now to do the things that we want to do, so any loss of funding would mean loss of service," Corrales said. "It would really be detrimental to the Holden Housing Authority.

Holden’s town manager Peter Lukes told Spectrum News 1 that they disagree with the attorney general’s interpretation of the law.

“It’s a matter of whether we have the desire or funds to mount a legal challenge,” Lukes wrote in an email.

Corrales said he understands that Holden feels like it is a local issue, but he is concerned about the possibility of loss of funding. The people who would be impacted are some of the most vulnerable in their town.

“It feels counterproductive to say that we are going to penalize you for not allowing for multifamily homes and the way we are going to penalize you is cutting the funding for the only affordable housing option in the town of Holden," Corrales said. "It does not make sense to me.”

The Holden Board of Selectmen will discuss what the next steps are for the town on Monday night at their scheduled meeting.