Proposed zoning change would allow two-family homes throughout Northampton

  • Northampton City Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2021 3:34:25 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Over the past few decades, the amount of rental units in the city has decreased, while the demand for rental units has risen, according to Wayne Feiden, the city's director of planning and sustainability.

The imbalance creates what Feiden called a “basic equity issue.” 

“Not everybody is in a position to a buy a home” he said. “If we only have homeownership, we’re reducing the amount of people who can make Northampton their home.”

A potential new zoning change is aimed at, among other issues, addressing that problem by allowing two-family homes by right throughout the city. 

On Thursday night at 7 p.m., a public hearing on the proposed zoning changes will take place at a joint meeting of the Planning Board, Committee on Legislative Matters and the City Council.

Feiden said the ordinance should increase the rental housing stock though the homes don't have to be rented. He said because they are two-family, many will end up being rented.

There are a number of different proposed ordinance changes on Thursday’s public hearing agenda because a number of different ordinances in the city code would need to change to allow two-family homes everywhere. 

“Basically wherever a single-family home is allowed by right, a two-family home would be allowed by right,” said Feiden, whose department recommended the change with the mayor. 

Two-family homes are allowed to be built in the areas generally in walking distance from downtown Florence and Northampton, Feiden explained. About 60% of the city’s population live in those areas, but “it’s still a relatively small percentage of the land mass. Geographically, it’s going to open up a lot of areas for two-family.”

Outside of the two areas around the downtowns, two-family homes are not allowed to be built on a single lot, Feiden said. 

Currently, the city allows accessory dwelling units — a second small unit added to someone’s home — in all zones of the city, but either the home or its additional unit must be owner-occupied, Feiden said. 

Ward 5 City Councilor Alex Jarrett expressed support for the proposal in his recent newsletter.

“I believe this proposal will promote walkability, increase housing supply and allow a wider variety of building sizes, which is needed given a smaller average family size and aging population … It is a step toward addressing the social inequities that single-family zoning has caused.”

Information on how to join the public hearing can be found on the city’s online calendar. 

Greta Jochem can be reached at

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