Council Approves Bill to Incorporate Universal Design Features in City-Funded Housing Developments

Image credit: New York City Council.

On February 21, 2023, Mayor Eric Adams signed Local Law 030 of 2023. The law will require housing developers receiving City funds for new rental developments with over 41 units to incorporate universal design features. The goal of the law is to make all units fully accessible to any occupant no matter their age, or disability. The law will meet the needs of New Yorkers so that they can age safely in their homes and not rely on landlords to make adjustments on a case-by-case basis.

The new law was originally sponsored by Council Member Crystal Hudson as Introduction 676-A (2022). Universal design features are not directly defined in the law but the law does suggest the features shall include, but not be limited to, doors with accessible hardware and clearance to accommodate wheelchairs, bathrooms with removable base cabinets to accommodate knee space, and adjustable countertops. The Law calls on the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, with the assistance of the Mayor’s office for people with disabilities and Department for the Aging, to update the list and add as appropriate. The features are subject to federal, state, and local law.

Housing development projects refers to the construction of any multiple dwelling of no less than 41 new dwelling units offered for rent. Housing development projects do not include the rehabilitation of a multiple dwelling, or construction of any multiple dwelling that is owned by a limited-profit housing company or any multiple dwelling located on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) restricted land. HUD restricted land is land that is subject to a declaration of trust or restrictive covenant for the purpose of public housing.

This law will not affect housing development project construction where developers received City financial assistance prior to the effective date of the law. City financial assistance refers to any loans, grants, tax credits, tax abatements, mortgages, debt forgiveness or land conveyances for less than appraised value or other things of value allocated by the City.

The Committee of Housing and Buildings held a joint hearing with the Committee on Aging to discuss the legislation with Council Member Hudson in October 2022. In February 2023, the legislation was amended and passed by the Committee on Housing and Buildings. The City Council unanimously voted 49-0 to pass the legislation.

Council Member Hudson tweeted the day it was signed into law, “This morning (Mayor Adams) signed our bill requiring new developments receiving City funds to implement universal design elements in all units. It’s our responsibility to ensure accessibility in NYC. We’re 1 step closer to achieving this goal.”

By: Gabrielle Cilea (Gabrielle is a New York Law School student, Class of 2023.)



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