NYC to scrap outdated restrictions on residential construction and build ‘tens of thousands’ of affordable homes

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New York Construction Report staff writer

Calling it an outdated restriction on new residential construction, state lawmakers are say they will lift the the floor-to-area-ratio (FAR) cap which currently limits the number of new homes that can be built in certain high-demand areas of the New York, including Midtown Manhattan.

Mayor Eric Adams is proposing a new zoning tool to allow for even more density of residential buildings while simultaneously mandating the creation of permanently affordable housing across the city.

“Our housing crisis has been so long in the making, and the severity of our crisis is now so dire, that to change the trajectory of this problem, we need to do everything, everywhere, all at once,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing Maria Torres-Springer. “By proposing brand new residential districts that require permanently affordable homes, we are demonstrating, yet again, that New York City will continue to take bold action to meet the moment and we call on our partners across all levels of government to do the same.”

The outdated FAR cap is preventing affordable housing from being built where it’s needed most, particularly in central areas of Manhattan with great access to transit, jobs, and amenities.

“By creating new high-density, residential zoning districts with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, New York City will be ready to act as soon as Albany lifts this cap,” said New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) Director and City Planning Commission (CPC) Chair Dan Garodnick. “Our new rezoning lookback reports are a timely reminder that we must tackle our housing crisis with an equitable, city-wide approach, and that’s exactly what these new zoning districts will help us do.”

The city needs state approval to lift the FAR cap in order to be enacted, and then, pending city council approval of the ‘City of Yes for Housing Opportunity’ plan, new residential projects undergoing a rezoning could benefit from this new tool — which would enable residential projects to build up to 15 or 18 times their lot size — and build significantly more housing on their site.

If approved, new housing projects will be required to build permanently affordable housing through Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. Mandatory Inclusionary Housing requires that 20 percent to 30 percent of the housing in a development is affordable to New Yorkers earning an average of 40 percent to 80 percent of the area median income.

DCP also released a set of “rezoning lookback” reports, examining 15 neighborhood rezonings that were enacted in 2009 and how zoning changes impacted local housing production. The reports show that when policymakers enacted more restrictive zoning in low-density neighborhoods, housing production, effectively, stopped, and that new housing productions was concentrated in select areas of the city.

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