City Releases Details for “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity” Zoning Text Amendment

Mayor Adams, City Planning Director Dan Garodnick and Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer discussing the final City of Yes Zoning Text Amendment. Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

On September 21, 2023, Mayor Eric Adams released the details for his “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity” proposal. The proposal aims to increase the development of and access to affordable housing throughout New York City through changes to the City’s zoning code. The Mayor’s Office touts that the initiative could add 10,000 homes to expected housing production over the next 15 years, create 260,000 temporary and 6,300 permanent jobs, and provide $58.2 billion in economic impact to the city over the next 30 years. The proposal contains several components.

The plan would eliminate decades-old regulations requiring a fixed number of parking spots to be constructed alongside new homes. This will increase the amount of valuable space that developers may allot to housing. Current regulations add roughly $67,500 per underground parking space in construction costs.

The plan would also enact a Universal Affordability Preference policy, allowing a building to add 20 percent more housing, if those additional units are affordable. The policy builds on the Affordable Independent Residence for Seniors (AIRS) program, which allows affordable senior housing to be 20 percent larger than other housing types. The proposal would extend to all types of affordable housing.

The plan also aims to lower housing costs by adjusting current regulations that mandate larger-sized apartments to enable the construction of smaller-sized apartments with shared kitchen or bathroom facilities. This housing option was once popular in the City. Over time, regulations requiring larger-sized units made this style of living nearly impossible to offer. Globally, cities have lowered housing costs by allowing for these types of apartments.

The plan would also enable the construction of two and four-story residential developments over ground-floor commercial spaces – increasing housing access in the town centers and main streets of respective communities.

The plan would also enable the construction of three to five-story apartment buildings on large lots near public transit, on wide streets or corner lots. Many of these buildings exist in the outer boroughs – but could not be built today under current regulations.

The plan would also allow for the construction of backyard cottages, garage conversions and basement units of up to 800 feet on one and two family properties.

The plan would also enable the conversion of empty office buildings into housing. Current zoning provides that only non-residential buildings constructed before 1961 or 1977, depending on the zoning district, can be converted into housing. The proposal updates eligibility to buildings built before 1990 and extends to all zoning districts.

The plan also aims to maximize space in large campuses throughout the City by streamlining the construction of new buildings that reflect the make of surrounding buildings. For example, if a campus has an old building that exceeds modern height restrictions, but was allowable when built, a developer cannot construct a building adjacent to it that is equal in height. This plan would ease approvals to allow for said construction.

Lastly, the plan includes other measures to modernize the City’s zoning code. The plan would grant homeowners greater flexibility to add extra space or bring properties into compliance to enable renovations. Additionally, the plan aims to end the “Silver Law”, which limits the development of tall narrow buildings in certain zoning districts. The plan would also allow for landmarked sites to more easily sell transferable development rights and help raise revenue for building maintenance.

Mayor Adams stated, “Today, we are proposing the most pro-housing changes in the history of New York City’s modern zoning code — changes that will remove longstanding barriers to opportunity, finally end exclusionary zoning, cut red tape, and transform our city from the ground up…If we do this right, decades from now, New Yorkers will see this moment for what it was: a turning point away from exclusionary policies and outdated ideas and towards a brighter, bolder, more equitable future — the moment when we came together and decided to be a ‘City of Yes.’”

Department of City Planning Director Dan Garodnick stated, “Our goal is to create ‘a little more housing in every neighborhood’ to finally tackle New York’s housing shortage head-on… By addressing the root cause of New York’s high housing costs, displacement, homelessness, and the imbalance of power between tenants and landlords, we can build a city where working families can thrive. These critical and urgently needed changes will not just create the housing that New Yorkers need — they’ll also help foster vibrant communities where New Yorkers have easy access to transit and services, support multigenerational families, and deliver good-paying jobs and a greener city.”

Note: DCP Director Dan Garodnick spoke on the “City of Yes” amendments on Friday, October 6, 2023. To hear his talk, click here.

By: Nick Negron (Nick is a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2023.)



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.