New Laws Target Vacant Land as a Tool for Achieving Affordable Housing Goals

Mayor Bill de Blasio. Image Credit: New York City Mayoral Photography Office

New laws focusing on vacant land throughout the City aims at identifying and reporting lots and buildings that could be used for affordable housing. On January 8, 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed two bills into laws that focus on how vacant land, both public and private, across the city could be used to further accelerate the production of affordable housing. The new laws will advance the Mayor’s Housing New York 2.0 plan to build 300,000 affordable homes in the City. The new laws will require the City and Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) to conduct a census-like report on vacant property throughout the City.

The first bill, 1036-A, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, requires the City to collect information on vacant public and private lots and buildings in areas zoned for residential use and publish the data every five years. The second bill, 1039-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumanee Williams, requires the HPD to issue an annual report to the Mayor and City Council on City-owned vacant lots under its jurisdiction by Council District. The report will provide details about how many sites are being used to build affordable housing. These bills were passed by the City Council on December 19, 2017, by a vote of 50 to 0 for 1036-A and 48 to 2 for 1039-A.

Mayor De Blasio said: “More affordable housing is the key to making New York neighborhoods more stable, more diverse and to making this a fairer City. With these new laws we shine a light on buildings and vacant land sitting empty – and that will help us meet a goal of creating 300,000 affordable homes — enough for the entire population of Boston.”

Council Member Rodriguez said: “The housing crises challenging our city are greatly complex requiring a multi-pronged approach and all of our attention. These bills will help us identify and record vacant properties, understand how pervasive property warehousing is in the city, and educate us on how to most effectively allocate our resources.”

Council Member Williams said: “For the first time in its history, New York City will be empowered to conduct a census of vacant property. The affordable housing and homelessness crisis we face presents an incredibly complex problem, and enacting this legislation provides us with an essential tool toward creating solutions.”

Housing New York 2.0 is an extended plan to Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan that intends on accelerating the creation and preservation of affordable homes. In the 2014 announcement of the Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan, Mayor de Blasio committed to creating 200,000 high-quality, affordable homes over ten years by 2024. Housing New York 2.0, announced in November 2017, committed the Administration to complete the 200,000 homes goal by 2022, two years ahead of schedule, and generate an additional 100,000 homes over the following four years.

By: Dorichel Rodriguez (Dorichel is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2017.)

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