City of Yes for Housing Opportunity Overview: City Celebrates Start of Public Review Process

Mayor Eric Adams and Department of City Planning Director Dan Garodnick celebrate the start of the public review process for the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity text amendment. Image Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.

On April 29, 2024, the City Planning Commission launched the public review process for the proposed City of Yes for Housing Opportunity text amendment. The text amendment is one of three City of Yes amendments aiming to remove or modify outdated provisions within the zoning text that inhibit economic growth, the ability for developers to build, and the implementation of green technology and infrastructure. 

The City of Yes for Housing Opportunity text amendment aims to address the city’s highly concerning 1.41 percent vacancy rate with a proposal to build, as City Planning Director Dan Garodnick described, “a little more housing in every neighborhood.” Currently, over 50 percent of renters are rent burdened, and for over 40 years the city has continued to create more jobs than homes. For the housing created, it is concentrated in ten of the city’s 59 community districts. These districts feel a greater impact of gentrification and displacement because they are carrying the majority of the new housing created for the entire city; the proposed amendment aims to spread the creation of housing citywide with various proposals that take into account the needs and structures of different districts.

The plan aims to create up to over 108,000 additional homes over the next 15 years. The plan consists of multiple proposals to change the creation of housing in low, medium, and high- density districts. In low-density districts (R1-R5), town center zoning can allow for the construction of mixed-use buildings with ground floor commercial space and two to four residential floors; while many low-density districts feature these types of buildings, these buildings were grandfathered in prior to the 1961 creation of the modern zoning text, which currently restricts this type of construction in low-density areas. 

The amendment would also allow for transit-oriented development where modest three-to-five story apartment buildings can be created within a half mile of a subway or rail stations that are on wide streets or corners. 

Many low-density areas include one-to two-family housing that can benefit from the addition of accessory dwelling units including backyard cottages, garage conversions or basement level apartments. This change can create additional opportunities for housing without creating taller buildings that may feel more out of place in a lower density district while providing homeowners additional rental income opportunities or options for multi-generational housing. For basement level apartments, additional changes to building codes would still need to be implemented, but the zoning text amendment would help remove restrictions to make that possible in the future.  

In medium- and high-density districts, the amendment will implement a universal affordability preference that allows buildings to add at least 20 percent housing if those additional units are permanently affordable. This rule currently exists for affordable senior housing and would extend to all forms of affordable and supportive housing. These proposed changes are made possible in part by the State’s lifting of the floor area ratio cap which was approved as part of the FY 2025 budget legislation. 

The proposed amendment also lifts parking mandates for new buildings. Parking requirements often add to project costs resulting in more expensive housing. Parking would still be permitted, and project developers can add parking that is appropriate for their location. 

Other proposed changes include the conversion of non-residential buildings to housing. The amendment will move the eligibility cutoff to convert buildings built before 1990 from the existing 1961 and 1977 cutoffs which can enable many underused buildings like offices to be eligible for conversion to housing. 

The proposed amendment also re-introduces small and shared housing like buildings with shared kitchens or other common facilities. The amendment also makes it easier to add new housing on larger sites with existing buildings – e.g., a church with a large parking lot. Updated rules for mandatory inclusionary housing will allow the deep affordability option to be used on its own without needing to be paired with other options. 

The Department of City Planning previously released an illustrated guide for the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity amendment, which can be found here

The proposed amendment will now be turned over to community boards and Borough Presidents for their review. Generally, community boards have sixty days to issue a recommendation to the City Planning Commission before the Commission holds a public hearing. Given the complex nature of this proposal, the City Planning Commission will continue to accept feedback from community boards and Borough Presidents after that typical deadline has passed. Later this summer, the City Planning Commission will host a public hearing and an eventual vote. If approved, the proposal will go to the City Council for review. Previously, the City Council already approved the City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality amendment, and is currently reviewing the City of Yes for Economic Opportunity amendment. 

On April 29th Mayor Eric Adams joined Director Garodnick for a rally outside of City Hall to celebrate the start of the public review process for the amendment. Mayor Adams stated, “For too long, New York City has been at the mercy at folks who have said ‘no.’ In our administration, we continue to proudly say ‘yes’ – ‘yes’ to building more affordable housing in my backyard, in my neighborhood, and on my block. Today, the City Council is kicking off the public review process for our ‘City of Yes for Housing Opportunity’ proposal –the most ambitious pro-housing proposal in New York City’s history. To address this housing crisis, we need to think bigger and act faster, and that’s what our plan does. We are calling our city council members to listen to New Yorkers in need of more affordable housing and say ‘yes’ to the ‘City of Yes for Housing Opportunity.’”

Director Garodnick stated, “The time has come for action on New York’s housing crisis. By building a little more housing in every neighborhood, we can set our city on course for a more affordable future. The invisible walls that prevent housing in too many of our neighborhoods are driving high rents, displacement pressure, homelessness, and creating an imbalance of power between landlords and tenants, but our housing shortage is a policy choice. We look forward to talking with communities across the city about how this proposal would help lower housing costs across the board.” 

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the Editor of CityLand and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)



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