‘City of Yes for Housing Opportunity’ proposal under public review

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New York Construction Report staff writer

A public review is now underway for New Yor City’s  “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity“, a proposal to create “a little more housing in every neighborhood” through a set of carefully crafted zoning changes.

The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) released a draft environmental impact statement which estimates changes could result in up to108,850 new homes over the next 15 years.

Facing a 1.4 percent rental vacancy rate, Mayor Eric Adams says the city needs “forward-thinking solutions to deliver the housing”. The proposal will be reviewed by community boards and borough presidents before a city council vote by the end of the year.

“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,” said New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) Director and City Planning Commission (CPC) Chair Dan Garodnick. “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.”

The City of Yes for Housing Opportunity proposal includes lifting arbitrary and costly parking mandates for new residential construction; the Universal Affordability Preference, a bonus allowing roughly 20 percent more housing in developments, as long as the additional homes are permanently affordable at an average of 60 percent of the area median income; transit-oriented development and Town Center zoning, which would allow three-to-five story apartment buildings to be built near transit and along commercial corridors, respectively; and allowing homeowners to add accessory homes like backyard cottages.

Also, facilitating conversion of non-residential buildings like offices to housing; re-legalizing small and shared housing models with common facilities like kitchens; allowing development on large lots known as campuses that are today limited by outdated rules from using existing development rights; and creating new zoning districts that would allow more housing, including mandatory affordable housing, that had previously been restricted by state law.

City agencies are also advancing a slate of related, non-zoning efforts to guide implementation of the proposals, such as rules for HPD administration of the Universal Affordability Preference as well as technical assistance and financing tools to assist homeowners who want to add secondary homes onto their property.

“By eliminating antiquated and unnecessary barriers to housing development, City of Yes for Housing Opportunity will create opportunities to build more housing citywide and tackle our housing crisis head on,” said Jesse Lazar, executive director, American Institute of Architects New York. “With challenges to building affordable housing mounting due to high property costs, interest rates, and construction costs, the proposal will add the critical tools needed to ensure all New Yorkers have access to safe and affordable housing.

“The proposed combination of zoning changes will eliminate key restrictive barriers that have stunted housing development allowing us to build all types of housing and prioritize neighborhood character.”

Prior to the start of public review, DCP and HPD conducted extensive outreach and engagement with New Yorkers, including 10 public information sessions, two years of meetings with impacted stakeholders, and released an annotated version of the draft zoning text along with an illustrated guide.

The proposal will now be reviewed by community boards, borough presidents, and borough boards before the CPC holds a hearing and a vote this fall. If approved by the CPC, the City Council is anticipated to hold a hearing and a vote on the proposal before the end of the year.

“Funding and building more housing will not only provide this basic need to those who need it most, but also generate thousands of good paying union careers for hardworking New Yorkers from all backgrounds,” said Gary LaBarbera, president, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “This is why we support Mayor Adams’ City of Yes initiative and applaud his commitment to addressing the housing crisis.

“Our members stand at the ready to get critical housing projects off the ground, all while taking the opportunity to pursue the middle class and support their families.”

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