Zoning Amendment Expands Home-Based Childcare

By Adam Swift

This spring, the city council will consider a proposed zoning amendment that would make it easier for home childcare businesses to operate in the city and increase the number of children who could attend the daycare businesses.

Currently, city ordinances limit home childcare businesses to no more than four children and require a special permit from the city council.

Under an amendment being proposed by the city’s planning and community development department, the home daycares would be able to operate by right in 12 of the city’s 19 zoning districts. In addition, it would increase the limit for the businesses from four to 10 children, provided there is a second, certified childcare assistant at any business with seven or more children.

Over the past several months, city officials have been working with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and an advisory committee to craft the new ordinance.

One of the main goals of the revised ordinance is to provide more affordable childcare options for Revere residents. Massachusetts has the second highest childcare costs in the country, behind only the District of Columbia, according to Tom Skwierawski, the city’s director of planning and community development.

“The purpose of the project was to amend the existing zoning ordinance to remove zoning barriers and help develop more home-based childcare facilities throughout the city, and also to provide greater and more equitable access to childcare and help increase economic stability for home-based childcare providers and adequately prepare youth to be able to transfer into school,” said Courtney Lewis, a land use planner from MAPC, at an online public forum that was held last week.

Skwierawski said the impetus for the action was the city’s 2021 Workforce Development Strategy, which focused on providing childcare as a key action item.

“Childcare is an important workforce development strategy everywhere,” he said, but it is especially important in a city like Revere, where the median income for a family of four makes it virtually impossible to afford rent, necessities, and childcare costs for two children.

Many of the proposed changes in the zoning ordinance reflect regulations at the state level, Skwierawski continued.

“We worked to really compare our regulations locally with those at the state level to see what we could do to reduce barriers to childcare,” he said. “One of the reasons we felt there was something we could do is that there is already a pretty rigorous regimen of permitting and licensing at the state level for childcare.”

Those capacity standards for minimum square-foot ratios and staffing are mirrored in the proposal that Skwierawski said would be presented to the city council likely within the next month.

The council and planning boards will hold public hearings on the proposed zoning ordinance changes before a final vote is held.

“In the city of Revere, we have limited home-based childcare to four or fewer children and through a special permit process,” Skwierawski said. “That process has created a great deal of uncertainty for providers to enter into the market.”

The revised ordinance would allow home-based childcare by right without having to go before the city council for a special permit. The one exception would be if there was a proposal for a home-based childcare business within 300 feet of another similar business. In that case, a special permit would need to be approved by the council.

“We want to make sure we are not clustering too many of the centers in any one area,” said Skwierawski.

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