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MYTH: Multi-family housing means huge apartment buildings.

Updated: Aug 7, 2023


The latest myth making the rounds on local Facebook pages:

"Gloucester doesn’t need multi-family apartment buildings.”

Of Gloucester’s 13,896 existing housing units, more than 40% are multi-family housing! And guess what? Most of it is small scale. There’s a good chance if you’re reading this and you live in Gloucester you live in small scale multi-family housing. Multifamily housing and apartment buildings are related but not exactly the same. Here are the key differences between the two:

Multifamily Housing:

Refers to properties with more than one household living in them at the same time.

  • Can range from smaller apartments or condominiums to larger apartment complexes.

  • May include duplexes, triplexes, and quadruplexes, which are residential properties with two, three, or four units respectively.

  • Can also include garden apartment developments, which are low-rise buildings with fewer units typically found in the outskirts or suburbs.

  • Multifamily housing properties are often considered residential properties.

Apartment Buildings:

  • Are commercial properties that contain more than four units under one roof.

  • Can consist of six to twelve units under one roof or even more.

  • May also be comprised of multiple buildings on a single land complex.

  • Large apartment buildings are typically considered commercial properties.

One of the many skyscraper apartment buildings that house the city of Hong Kong's 7.4M residents.

Why do certain people in Gloucester want you to believe the term multi-family housing only means huge apartment buildings? They’re trying to scare you into joining them to oppose the MBTA Communities Zoning Act and prevent the city from creating a Transit Overlay District (TOD) to comply. They’re posting photos of huge apartment complexes located in faraway cities that have thousands of apartments to try to make you believe this is the sort of multi-family housing that will be built here if we adopt a TOD zone of our own.

So the fact is, multifamily housing is important for providing affordable housing options, especially in high-cost housing markets. It encompasses a broader range of properties and includes various types of housing units that can be developed at different scales and densities, as we can see throughout Gloucester today. Multifamily housing is also an important for providing affordable housing options, especially in high-cost housing markets.

What Gloucester multi-family housing actually looks like:

Pictured clockwise from top left, Gloucester Mill, LePage Apartments, Halyard, Central Grammar School Apartments, Harbor Village, Babson Block.

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